Maybe your parents had things in their home, that when they are gone, the things speak their names to you.
Mom always said “use the good silver” when we had company and ate in the dining room.
“Use me! Use me!” said the flat silver whenever we had company.
It’s heavy. The handles are flowered and smooth with love and washing. The forks have four tines. Some of the spoons have been turned into grapefruit spoons because they slipped down the garbage disposal.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. My father had been dead nearly three years; my mother just six months.
We weren’t gathering at their house for dinner the next day. It was time to start some new traditions we’d all agreed.
The table in my dining room – their dining room – was bare. I took all the silver out of the drawer and laid it on the table. It looked like a case of silver at a flea market – homeless. I re-arranged it. It still looked like it was at the flea market. So I counted all the pieces – eleven knives, eleven forks, twenty-two spoons, assorted serving pieces, and then all the ones that we always thought matched, but it turns out they don’t. I walked around the table and looked at them.
They didn’t talk to me. Flat silver. Flat like me.
It was so quiet in that room. It was lifeless like me. Flat silver. Laid out. With no owner. No excitement, no clamors of “use me, use me.” No smells of pumpkin pie and cranberries. Alone. Quiet. Flat.
My parents weren’t flat. Or particularly quiet. They glittered and were full of life. They were soft from loving.
I picked up the flat silver and divided it into four mostly equal piles. I wrapped each pile in one of their linen tablecloths.
I put on my coat, gathered my linen bundles, and walked to each of my brother’s houses. I gave them each a bundle. They un-wrapped them, slowly and kindly. Jingle, jingle. Ping, ping. The silver fell out.
It was so quiet. They touched the pieces of silver. They rubbed the flowers lovingly. They said, “oh.” They laughed at the “grapefruit” spoons. Their eyes met mine. And our silence was no longer hollow.
The next day the great-grandchildren came to visit me. “We ate with Grandma and Pop’s silver,” they said.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship. She wrote this piece in the summer of 2007.