happy March first

I found an ad in my blog file for rare English silver plate biscuit boxes, starting at $350 "(treasure from the Victorian era”), and I thought of my parents.  Neither of them was materialistic, my mother even less so than my father.  He accumulated things for her, but not out of any great desire to own them.  He was a doctor, beginning his practice during the Depression, well before medical insurance paid bills.  When people couldn’t pay and certainly their medical debts were less pressing than others, once the baby was born, the appendix out, the fever gone, and the crisis past, he had to resort to a collection agency that might pay 50 cents on the dollar, so that he could pay his bills. This is not about finance. He wasn' t good at it.

My father tried to support people’s dignity.  That’s how he came to own eight family Bibles, huge weighty things, at least six inches thick. Her would spot one in a sparse home and admire it. (Yes, he made house calls.)

“My, that’s a fine looking Bible,” he’d say. “I don’t suppose you’d consider selling it?”  And he would pay cash on the spot, whatever was asked, no bargaining.

And that’s also how my mother accumulated 65 cookie jars, or biscuit boxes.

A few of them were treasures: pressed glass, Royal Doulton, Wedgewood, etc. But most of them were quite ordinary china ,with maybe a silver (plate) handle, that she had to figure out what to do with.  She filled them with kitchen staples and lined them up on the kitchen counter and you had to remember that the one with green flowers held raisins and the brown sugar was in the yellow one, and the barrel shape stored cornmeal, and so on.  

I didn’t realize that this was not a practice common to every kitchen.  When I married and set up my kitchen I bought several sets of plastic canisters, the ones that held Flour, Sugar, Coffee and Tea. They had stick-on labels and I cut them up when I could to help me identify the contents.  I ran out of letters so my cornmeal was in a container marked C. It didn’t occur to me for a long time that I could just have kept my staples in the box or package they came in. Nowadays I buy a lot of stuff in bulk without fancy packaging and I could use those canisters or cookie jars or biscuit boxes but they’re all gone. So now I have wide glass jars with cork stoppers.

I’m telling you all this to try to trigger memory in some of you who might be old enough to have a story of your own, a treasure from your era. Does this help?