Of the many things I took home from my mother’s house after she died, this is the only thing I’d take again if I could go back and do it again. It is an old-fashioned jar opener. It belonged to my mother and she used it as often as I do. This simple tool is a real treasure. A clever series of steel cogs mesh together as it glides its powerful jaws open and latches on to a stubborn jar lid. With a gentle turn of the red wooden handle virtually all jar lids snick open. Steel, wood and paint (probably lead-based – but since I’ve trained myself not to chew on tools, it’s okay). It was designed to last and if damaged, be easily repaired.
I wish knew then what a friend told me years later. She said she watched as her siblings snarled and argued over every stick of furniture, every picture album, every one of their childhood memories desperate not to let a single one of them go. My friend wisely stayed out of it and only asked for the bowl in which her mother used to serve her cereal in the summer or oatmeal in the winter. So her siblings left with moving vans stuffed full of what they called “memories” but soon were crowded under the excess junk in their homes which they felt trapped into keeping, turning their “memories” into burdens. But my friend sits down to her bowlful of memories every single day.
Interestingly, because the manufacturer and the Patten number appears on the tool, I was able to trace it back to its manufacturer, Edlund Co, which is still in business in Burlington Vermont, still making stainless steel tools for kitchens. That too, I found comforting. Their tools have changed, no longer the simple household tools like mine, but big shiny industrial tools for big shiny industrial kitchens.
It makes me stop and evaluate the real value of the things in our lives. It isn’t the things we buy for their staus or appearance that seems to matter, but the things that function well, year after year, that come to matter. Like a good marriage, I suppose. Handsome or beautiful is nice when you pick one out at the “store”, but in the very long run, it’s the friendship, the humour, the comfort and companionship they offer that really matters. It’s how your cogs fit into each other’s grooves that lets you live happily together and function smoothly as a couple, year after year, making it another one of life’s hidden treasures.