Holding on to Memories . . . and Small Appliances

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

When I got home today I found a package with my name on it, tucked behind my storm door. I picked it up and stood in the doorway staring down at it and I had to laugh: I had absolutely no idea what was in it. The only thing that came to mind was tea. I remembered ordering my favorite British decaf tea last weekend. But judging by the feel of the padded envelope, I knew that wasn’t what it was.

I settled myself at the kitchen table and tore open the package. I spied a bit of clear Lucite peeking out of the wrapping paper and had an “Aha moment” as I remembered ordering a replacement part for my food processor. My favorite kitchen gadget still slices and dices just fine, but the safety mechanism is broken, which means someone could get hurt—VERY BADLY—if they aren’t paying close attention. The gruesome thoughts I’ve been having when I use it were making me consider leaving it on the shelf and doing all my prep work by hand.

When I mentioned to my husband that a part had broken, he encouraged me to buy a whole new processor. I think I’d have been justified—this one is 26 years old—which, as kitchen appliances go, is ancient. A 2018 model would probably have bells and whistles and attachments I can’t even imagine, and would be so much fun to play with, but I turned down Bill’s offer. I just can’t bear to replace the old one . . . because my mother bought it for me, and every time I use it I think of her.

I still remember the day we picked it out. She was visiting me in Oklahoma, a few months before Bill was transferred, moving our family to Alaska. We were shopping at the BX at Tinker Air Force Base. As we walked up and down the aisles, my mother tried to get me to choose something as a Christmas gift. I never wanted her to think I looked forward to her visits so she’d buy me things and, because of this, I was being cagey—trying not to let on when there was something I liked. But when we came upon that shiny, bright white Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus food processor, I was done for.  I couldn’t hide the gleam in my eye as thoughts of making cranberry orange relish and coleslaw and purees of every sort danced in my head.

My mother didn’t even ask if I wanted it. She saw that gleam in my eye and heaved the box off the shelf and into the cart, right next to my daughter Alison, who was still small enough to be riding there.

My recollection of that day is so crisp and so clear, and makes me miss my mother so much. Every time I get the food processer out—to make icing for a birthday cake or stuffing for a turkey or vegetable soup to warm up a winter day—I’m reminded of the woman who carried me, comforted me and loved me in so many ways . . . and, yes, the woman who taught me to cook.

I think deep down I’m afraid I’m losing her—that my memories of her are fading. Do I remember the feel of her hugs? Can I conjure up the sound of her voice . . . the sound of her laugh? I think I’m afraid that if I replace the ancient Cuisinart with something new, I’ll lose the magic button with which I bring her into my kitchen to cook with me.

And I’m just not ready to do that.

So, piece-by-piece, I’ll keep that old workhorse running as long as I can . . . because memories of my mom are worth more than bells and whistles ever will be. 

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