I made some soup earlier today and, in order to serve it, I reached for my ladle. It is absolutely not a classy ladle – it has a red plastic handle. It probably came from Woolworth’s or the equivalent. But I suddenly had a memory of how and when I got it.
I had just moved into my first ever apartment on my own in my last year of college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My first two years, as was the norm back then, were spent in college dormitories – women only. My third year had been spent abroad in London, where I lived in a small room and generally ate out.
A friend of a friend had graduated and was moving elsewhere. He had various kitchen utensils that he didn’t think were worth the nuisance of taking with him, so he offered them to her to give to me. Included in this very welcome loot was the ladle.
It was the autumn of 1962.
Although my donor didn’t think it was worth keeping his kitchen utensils, I did. And somehow, this ladle got packed up along with other things when I left Michigan and, with each subsequent move, this ladle came, too.
It moved to Pittsburgh, then New York City and then London. Indeed, three different homes in London, although I have lived in the third one for over 40 years.
Very occasionally over the years, I have wondered whether I should replace my ladle with a better one. There are much nicer ladles, after all, that would be more fitting for showing to guests.
But when the moment came, I always thought this one worked perfectly well and, after all, I wasn’t inviting the Queen (now King) to dinner.
And so here it is, 60 years later, in my London kitchen drawer, still perfectly useful.
Of course, some old things have great importance. Perhaps you have some family heirlooms of one kind or another. Perhaps a vase or a painting or a piece of furniture that has been passed down through the family.
These tend to have huge sentimental value. You look forward to handing them on to your own children or grandchildren.
Perhaps you even collect antiques.
Lasting is their point. They have the weight of history, and their age has a genuine importance. They are often seriously valuable.
I have few such things, although I do have one engraved silver serving spoon that was given to my German grandmother at the time of her marriage, some time at the end of the 19th century.
I recently met a third cousin once-removed (I think, such relationships are incredibly complicated) from the same family line, and she said she also had a silver serving spoon very much like it.
Such things have great value as a memory of our grandparents, but no real market value.
But my interest here is not in the valuable things we own but the completely non-valuable stuff.
I have, for instance, a box of wooden spools with many different colours of cotton thread, passed on from my other grandmother when she died in 1961. They probably go back to 50 years earlier when she first started sewing. (These fall into that wonderful category of ‘things that might come in useful one day’.)
The thing about simple everyday items is that they often last. Whether valuable or not. The older they are, the more durable they probably are.
And we just keep them and use them and keep them, without a thought.
In the end, you gain a fondness for them for having been with you for so long. Even ladles.
What simple everyday items do you own that are old but not valuable? Can you date when you got them? Do you have a fondness for them? Are things that belonged to your family important to you?