Old Friends, or Digging Through Trash Cans for Love

While I’m traveling in November, I’ve chosen some of my favorite blogs from the past to share with you. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed going back into the past to find them. This one, about old friends, is from 2009.

I’ve been cleaning my study.  Today I discovered that the table behind my desk is white.  Earlier in the week I learned the desk itself is brown, chipped Formica.  I said hello to these old friends, who’ve been smothered by paper piles I hadn’t cleared away for longer than I care to commit to print.

They are safe with me, these vintage relics.  The desk has been in our family since we bought it second hand in the 1970s when the Talon Zipper Factory left our little Pennsylvania town.  It’s been to New Orleans and Cleveland and now here to Northern Virginia, used by various family members and still far too useful to replace with something sleek and lovely.  Every book I’ve written has been written on this desk.  There is just the slightest chance that if I moved on to something new, I might never be able to write again.  It’s just possible the desk is magic.  Who’d want to chance it?

I’m not only “attached” to my desk and to far too many things in my too-small office.  I am attached to a host of items in my kitchen.  My oldest son is not afraid to point this out to me.  When he shrieks over a pan from the 1950s I explain that his grandmother made brownies in that pan.  He sits me down and points out that he knew his grandmother, that even though she’s been gone many years he still remembers her well.  His grandmother would NOT want me to keep that pan.

Fast forward to this week.  My husband, who would rather pull out his fingernails than go to a mall, turns into a wild man at Costco.  On Monday as he was throwing everything in sight into our cart, he spied a set of half-sheet baking pans and in they went.  I explained that new pans were great, they’d complement my jelly roll pan.  He said no, they were to REPLACE the jelly roll pan.  Hadn’t I looked at it recently?  Dented, blackened, well used.  He’s afraid the aforementioned oldest son will never visit again if he catches sight of it.

I explained that the new pans were not quite the same size, but no matter.  When we got home, he pulled out the jelly roll pan and showed me every dent, every flaw.  And finally, he convinced me. Into the trash went the jelly roll pan.  My sad, rejected jelly roll pan.  I couldn’t watch.

That night in bed I realized that the pan in question is my focaccia pan.  How would I now bake focaccia?  Would I be forced to change my recipe?  And would the new pans hold enough oats when we make mueseli?  Then, of course, there are roasted vegetables.  Are the sides of the new pans high enough to contain this favorite of our weekly menus?

I resolved to sneak the pan out of the trash the next day, and decision made, went back to sleep.  Then, before dawn, I was awakened by the weekly garbage pickup, apparently on steriods this morning. I’d waited too long.  My pan was now history.  Judging how long it would take me to run outside in my pajamas and scare the crew, I pulled the covers over my head and mourned.

An hour later I sadly dragged myself out of bed to discover that the garbage truck had only taken the recyclables.  Of course the truck would be back.   Very soon.  Unfortunately I was still in my pajamas, whereas my husband was on his way out the door to walk the dog.

How do we know for certain we are loved?  We ask the impossible.  We ask the ridiculous.  We know we can because we’ve done it before.

The pan is back in my kitchen now.  Gleaming, smiling.  My husband is shaking his head, but for his efforts?  I smell a pan of rosemary focaccia in his future.  Baked in the pan that’s absolutely perfect for it.

Update: I still have that focaccia pan. I actually brought it with me when we moved to Florida, dents, stains and all. I did let go of the desk. It crossed the street where our neighbor’s son took it with him to UVA to use in his dorm room. I have a brand new desk and can still write just fine. But I have to say, I miss that old one. I really do. I hope whatever student has it now is as inspired by it as I was.


  1. debbie Haupt on October 27, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Emilie, I laughed while I empathized with you. It’s amazing what we call our treasures and what our spouses, significant other, children think of them. I find it very easy to throw out something my husband cherishes but a heavy heart always accompanies an old treasure of mine that’s out lived it’s usefulness. I have many boxes in the basement that contain old things that I have to think about getting rid of. God help me if I ever move or maybe I should say God help my children when they are left the chore of cleaning out my house.

  2. Emilie Richards on October 27, 2009 at 9:43 am

    My husband is attempting to clean out “our” basement. Stay tuned. I’ve yet to see his list of rejects. But I nodded the entire time I read your comment, Debbie.

  3. Marna on October 27, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I’m so glad the pan was rescued and think Grandma would be happy you’re still using it for focaccia and muesli, dents and all.
    Sentimental in Arlington

  4. Emilie Richards on October 27, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    And coming from someone who has “seen” my office, this means a lot. 🙂

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