What can you buy today for $34.49 that will last for generations?
A Lodge Cast Iron Skillet.
I have two of them, one was my Mother’s, the other my Aunt’s. My Mom gave them to me when they became too heavy for her to handle. I have no idea how many years Mom used them, but I remember her baking cornbread in one of them when I was a child. I have used them for 15 years and counting. Two of my sons have already called dibs on them. When the time comes, I will pass them down with love, just as they were passed to me.
When taken care of, these skillets are nigh indestructible, so the practical engineer in me chooses them for the win. But maybe, I also love them because they connect me to my people. I have used them to cook many meals for my own family, just as my Mother did before me. It’s not just function, it’s memory and tradition. If that lowly skillet could tell us a story, what a story it would be, being front and center of the kitchen, where generations gather around a meal. I hope one day when my sons use them, they will think of their Momma and their Grandmother and their Great Aunt and smile.
I find it sad that traditional things are being replaced. Cards and letters replaced with texts and emails, which are convenient, but not terribly personal. Conversations replaced with social media, again convenient, but missing heart. A shoebox or album full of photos replaced by scrolling images on our phones or computers, convenient, but short-lived. We drop that phone in the sink, or lose it, those photos are gone. Our computer blows a chip, or the software changes, those photos are gone. Forever. No one will ever have the opportunity to hold those photos in their hands and see the memories or meet, in some small way, the people captured there.
When my father passed away, my stepmother gave me his cedar box that he had used for as long as I can remember. It contained various items, many I remember from my childhood. I wore one of his chunky silver bracelets from the 1970’s for a month after he passed just because it was his. The weight of it on my wrist brought comfort to my heart.
I treasure that box and its contents to this day. But the best thing? In the bottom of that box was a 3-page handwritten letter from my Grandmother dated 1967. The envelope has a 5-cent stamp on it. She wrote about mundane things going on in her life, about a squabble two of my Dad’s brothers were having, about how much she liked my Mother, about how she loved my Dad. My Dad was a pretty stoic guy, yet he kept that letter tucked away for 45 years, literally to the day he passed away.
I do not remember Oma, she passed away when I was very young. However, when I read this letter, I catch a glimpse of who she was. It’s not a complete picture, but I know her better after reading her words. I know she worried about her sons and that she loved my Dad. We have that in common. I have black and white photos of her and I have this one handwritten letter that I am going to keep forever just like Dad did. It’s nestled right back in that cedar box where he kept it.
When my mother passed away, I saved every card that was sent to me. For an only child with a smaller social circle, I was surprised how many people took the time. They were unexpected expressions of love and care that I could hold in my hands, that I could go back to a day or two later and receive comfort again. It’ll be 3 years next week that Mom went to heaven, and I pulled one of those cards from the basket just this morning.
Perhaps it’s the “enthusiast genealogist” in me, but these things are treasures. They are powerful. Whether it’s a kind word, an act of service, a letter from 1967, or my son thinking of me cooking for him in the same skillet he will use to cook for himself- these are the memories that will live on if we take time to make them and preserve them. When my Grandmother took the time to write that letter in 1967, before I was even born, I imagine she had no idea what it would mean to me today.
Let’s all dare to overthrow busyness, the “convenient thing to do”, and scrolling the phone and take the time to invest ourselves. Pick up the phone and have a conversation. Use that iron skillet and then give it to someone you love. Make space on a shelf for an album or a shoebox and print those photos out! Make them accessible, write names and dates on the back. Write a letter or a card to encourage someone and drop it in the mail. Write some thoughts in a journal occasionally. Journals do not have to record grand things with magnificent handwriting. In fact, it’s best if they are chicken-scratched thoughts from the heart, just like my Grandmother writing about her day-to-day life in that letter. Someone who loves you will cherish these things.
Just like I cherish that one letter from 1967 from a woman I never knew.
“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.”Malachi 3:16 (NIV)