Funny, things people take pride in

Published 4:48 pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It is amazing how an object can trigger a memory. Every time I use or even glance at my copper bottomed skillet, my friend Dean comes to mind.

Dean and her husband, Daniel, were our next-door neighbors on an Army post. She and I drank coffee together in each other’s homes almost every day. Dean had some pegs on the wall of her kitchen in the remodeled Army barracks building serving as our dependent quarters. It was on those pegs that she proudly displayed her cookware. Sometimes when I sat at her kitchen table sipping coffee, she was finishing up shining the copper bottoms of her numerous pots and pans. They never went on those pegs without looking shiny and new. No tiny black spots or discoloring was acceptable.

Dean treasured those pots and pans as I would a set of fine crystal, a collection of Hummel figurines, or a piece of Blue Deft from Holland. No matter how the rest of her house suffered from lack of attention, her kitchen wall gleamed with those pots and pans neatly hanging in a row.

I never mustered the nerve to ask Dean why she was so particular about her pots and pans. Day after day, when I saw her scrubbing them, I told myself how thankful I was that I did not have any cookware like that. If I had, I would certainly keep them hidden from her because I would never expend the time scrubbing them the way she did. I wondered if the reason for her preoccupation with those shiny utensils was that she loved to cook. Or maybe it was just something in which she took pride.

After pondering Dean’s obsession with her cookware, I began to get a little light on the subject. Now why, I asked myself, did I want my two sets of stainless steel knives, forks and spoons placed in separate drawers and not mixed at the table? Why did I insist on setting out all three of them at the proper place, even if I was eating alone? Or why did I place all three pieces next to the plates every meal, even though I knew family members would not use all the pieces.

When I worked, why did I make the bed before I left in the mornings when I felt no qualms at all leaving breakfast dishes stacked in the sink and the previous day’s newspapers scattered all over the living room? I cannot answer those questions. Maybe Dean could not answer the question I wanted to ask about her cookware.

Somebody gave me a skillet identical to Dean’s years after we left the Army post and unfortunately lost touch. But even today, if Dean appeared at my door unexpectedly, guess where I would slip off to for a second or two? You guessed right. I would be in my kitchen, hastily hiding a skillet—the one with the dull copper bottom that that I never bother to polish.