In Africa I learnt how ancestors live on until their name is forgotten, which resonated with me. This story is by Philippa Perry, with a similar theme. I’ve lifted it word for word from her gorgeous book ‘How to Stay Sane’ published as part of a series by the School of Life. It’s my kind of story, now shared 🙂 I hope you like it.
My Wooden Spoon
I sometimes look at a busy street and think: in a hundred years, we will all be dead. On this same street a hundred years ago, perhaps another woman thought the same thing. Perhaps, however, like me, she consoled herself with the thought that love is generative and lives on in the next generation, passed on in the habits of love we inculcate in our pupils, children and friends. I have my late aunt’s paintings around me, my late mother’s ring on my finger and her words inside me still urging me to tell my daughter to ‘be careful’ every time she leaves the house. My grandfather’s gruff sarcasm lives on in my father and in me, so he is not really dead. When my daughter lays out a sewing pattern, my fondness for needlework lives on in her.
This deeply moving process, that connects human to human in a cascade of memory passing through generations, can be symbolised by particular objects that are passed down along with the knowledge of our ancestors. I am the proud owner of a wooden spoon that is worn into an un-spoonlike stump. In the pre-electric whisk days of the 1960s, my aunt taught me to cream the butter and sugar for a cake mixture; we always used the same spoon. Even then the spoon was worn out. My aunt had, in her turn, used it as a child. I use a whisk now; but the sight of that spoon in the drawer brings tears to my eyes if it catches me unawares on an hormonal day. My aunt will be forgotten eventually; my daughter will teach her own children to make cakes. Along with cake recipes she will pass down the love I received first from my aunt. Oh yes, my aunt will live on, even if her name gets mentioned less and less and her spoon is thrown away.