Today a spatula made me cry

At least I think it’s a spatula. It might be a fish slice, or possibly a palette knife. One of those big kitchen utensils that isn’t a wooden spoon. It’s the thing that in our house is known as the flapjack scraper.

You bought it in 1995. The first time we’d attempted to make flapjack together in an erratic gas oven in the freezing little kitchen of a rented terraced house with condensation running down the walls. The flapjack mixture stuck horribly to the baking tray. So you went to Spoils where most of our kitchen stuff came from, and brought back the spatula/palette knife/fish slice/thing, and we gouged out chunks of flapjack from the tray, laughing at our pathetic attempt at domesticity. After that early disaster, it became your mission to perfect the art of flapjack, and over the years it became your signature home baking dish. And the flapjack scraper was always the essential tool for levering it out of the tray.

Today, in a rush to stop the eggs from burning, I was scrabbling through the kitchen utensils in the antique crockery pot which sits next to the New World halogen hob in my suburban kitchen. Briefly, my hand grasped on the flapjack scraper’s grey-white handle. I’ve seen it, touched it, used it, countless times in the last two decades. But today, for some reason, the sight and feel of it transported me back to the grotty kitchen in that terraced house behind Netto’s. For a few moments, I stood there holding that damn flapjack scraper, tears stinging my eyes.

You never had much patience with what you describe as my “obsession” with stuff. In your eyes I’ve always been too materialistic, getting emotionally attached to physical objects and cluttering up the house with them. “None of this stuff is mine” was your comment recently, looking around the home that I thought we’d built together. Up until then, I’d thought that it was all ‘ours’. But perhaps you were right. Perhaps, for stuff to truly belong to you, you need to connect it with a memory.

I know you won’t understand this. That you’ll just think I’m emotionally attached to so many physical items that I’m going to end up like one of those people with compulsive hoarder syndrome on Channel 4 documentaries. Yes, for me, objects trigger memories. But in your rush to dismiss that as grasping materialism, it’s easy to miss that those memories are too often a burden, not a source of comfort. I’m not sure why I cried today, but it wasn’t because I’m getting sentimental over a spatula, or even because of the good memories connected with it. Perhaps it was because I realised that shared memories, even the oldest and happiest ones, aren’t always enough to keep two people on the same wavelength.

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