A Silver Teaspoon Says “Live Now!”

Funny how a simple thing can expose a lifetime of conditioning.

And, in this case, it was a silver teaspoon that somehow had escaped from its dark velvety prison with its extended family members tucked away in the buffet. Maybe I’d used the spoon last Christmas and forgotten to put it back. Then, just last week I stumbled across it where it had been buried beneath our bountiful store of everyday flatware spoons which were crammed in the dishwasher waiting for a good cleansing. I picked up this single silver spoon, marveled at its simple yet elegant beauty, closed my eyes, and enjoyed the weight of it in my hand. My head and my heart were flooded with visions of my mother. This was her silverware which she’d kept tucked away for only the most special occasions. This spoon had enjoyed Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinners—and scarce Sunday dinners when our family was entertaining out-of-town guests or relatives.

After these sanctioned events, the silverware would once again return into hiding along with the fine bone china. They were replaced, for ordinary days, with indestructible plastic plates and inexpensive, expendable flatware. Those other things, those special touches in life, were reserved only for rare occasions. That’s what I came to believe. And I dutifully continued the tradition after my dear mother died and the coveted wooden box of her silver treasures was placed in my hands.

I stared at the spoon. I asked myself, “What are you waiting for? Live now!”

Suddenly I zoomed into a distant future. Old, failing mobility, and the march of regrets of a life not lived fully. I zoomed back to the present. What kind of craziness was I perpetuating by leaving something so precious locked away for another, more special time? Why the hell was I afraid to make this part of my everyday life? Would I be breaking a tradition or would I be breaking free? “Live now!”  The command was immediate. And within minutes the extended family of mom’s silver legacy came out of hiding and into the kitchen drawer for everyday use. And, I got a good chuckle when the velvet box became home to our faithful stainless steel flatware. Bye bye!

I’ve lived so much of my life focused on an ideal future state.

Too many times I discarded the now, always rushing ahead.

As a young whippersnapper, I saw nothing but an endless highway of time. I had little motivation to challenge the status quo and take a hard look at how I was treating the only reality there was, the present moment, and whether I was infusing it with reverence.

Moving to Italy was my big “Live Now” moment!

So, I can’t say I’ve been a total fraidy cat when it comes to carpe diem. But, when I moved my worldly belongs across the Atlantic, I also moved much of my old conditioning. It’s taken me a few years, and Italy’s influence, to change many of my habits and ways of thinking. And, there comes a warning with that: when you start moving around the furniture of your life and when you start questioning your values. When you say “Live now!” things can get a little messy—especially with other people who get a bit cranky as you step out the script everyone has been following. Your stepping out the norm somehow seems to challenge their norm.

Go ahead, bring out the sterling silver!

Of course, I’m speaking more metaphorically than literally even though this post is about how a silver teaspoon brought me to my senses. What is the “silver spoon” that you’re not enjoying? What are the things that you are putting off for a more-deserving day? For many people, that day seems to keep moving further and further out, so much that many never make it to “that” day. You’ve heard the stories.

And, leave regrets by the wayside.

I easily could suffocate under a mountain of missed opportunities. I could beat myself up for eternity for not wisening up to what has been right in front of me. Both are the converse of rushing ahead to a future state.

“Regret is useless in life. It’s all in the past. All we have is now.” — Marlon Brando

A final story…

Again, this comes from my mom, who had an incredible collection of what she called her “demitasse” cups. These delicate “half cups” lived almost entirely on the top shelf in her china cabinet. I think I saw her use them half a dozen times at most. Frankly, I didn’t pay them much attention growing up. To me, they were extraneous, mere decorations. But, when she died, I was already living in Italy. So, as we were packing up her house, I saw these diminutive coffee cups in a new light. “Espresso cups!” I realized. I brought several back to Italy and ever since they’ve been making up for a lifetime of inaction. And, every time I pull a shot of espresso in one of these cups, I thank and remember Mom!

 

Live now, Italywise

Worthy Vessels – © Jed Smith

And, a final quote…

If you’ve not seen the movie “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell, I highly encourage you to watch it. It’s a classic.

 

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” — Auntie Mame.

 

 

 

 

By |2019-01-17T22:30:19+02:00December 29th, 2018|Personal musings|29 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!

29 Comments

  1. Debra Polson January 11, 2019 at 2:09 am - Reply

    Hello, Jed
    Somehow in the busy-ness of the holidays I missed this one, and for all the ones to miss this shouldn’t have been it. Its perfect for this moment in my life. Paring down and down….I love doing it! Been back and forth about what to take. Probably no furniture but 30 or so boxes. As the time gets closer, I’ll be re-evaluating their italian worthiness. And family? Blimey…can’t get my mom on the Italian adventure train. One way or another it will get figured out.
    Thanks Jed, for having that special touch that so connects with me. September cannot get here fast enough! I’ll have to check to see if anyone in the family has silver!

    • Jed January 13, 2019 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Ciao, Debra! So good to hear from you and to know that you can relate to this. I have a feeling the paring will only accelerate in my life. “Travel light” is becoming my motto!
      Everything and everyone will fall into line. Piano, piano! Bacioni! Jed

  2. Anne Giombetti January 8, 2019 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    Jed, I so loved this post! When my husband and I became engaged over 55 years ago I purchased my sterling silver flatware but could only afford service for six and I paid for it in monthly installments. As the years went by I continued to purchase a piece here and there at antique shows and on line as my pattern was no longer available. We used it often and not just on special occasions. My husband always said that life was a special occasion, and how true that is.
    One time I was at an antique show and came across a young woman looking at a place setting of sterling silver flatware. The dealer had it displayed on a black velvet board and it was an old pattern and it just sparkled so brightly. I asked her if it was her pattern, and she said “oh no I don’t have a particular pattern. I buy one complete place setting at a time, no two match and it always has to have had a previous life.” What a profound statement from one so young! It had to have had a previous life! Wow! I came from the era when everything had to match and in even numbers. I no longer think that way and I have bought odd numbers of crystal stemware because the pattern was lovely.
    Christmas Eve our entire family, grandchildren, extended family and a newly married couple joined us, friends of our youngest daughter and husband. There were 14 of us gathered for la Cena della Vigilia di Natale, sette pesce. And yes, we had 7 different fish dishes. This was my husband’s favorite holiday and together with our three grandchildren we spent hours of preparation making it all come together. And we always set the table with our beautiful sterling silver flatware. It was a magical night.
    This Christmas Eve was a bitter sweet one as my wonderful husband passed away two months before Christmas. I will always remember his saying,” Annie, life is a special occasion!” And so it is. Enjoy one another and celebrate!

    • Jed January 13, 2019 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      I love that you shared this story, Anne! And the young woman collecting multiple place settings in different patters. I have a friend has done something similar. I love bringing out the silver and infusing this special treatment into everyday thinking and living!

  3. Chip Meeks January 1, 2019 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks again for a well written and emotionally driven piece to “Carpe diem” (even by the small standards of a silver teaspoon!) since it’s the only one we really have! I trust you had a great New Year’s arrival and will have a great 2019 my friend! -Chip

    • Jed January 4, 2019 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Ciao Chip! I hope you have a spectacular and rewarding 2019. Life sure does unfold and change us, if we let it, doesn’t it? Full steam ahead! Jed

  4. Kambiz Razzaghi December 31, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    This is beautiful Jed, it reminds me of my favorite Poet Philosopher Omar Khatami who said “ Yesterday no longer belongs to you, so do not think about it. Tomorrow is not promised to you, so do not worry about it. All you have is today, so live it and enjoy it.

    • Jed January 4, 2019 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      So good to hear from you Kambiz! I love the quote you share and I plan to print it out and post it where I can see it daily!

  5. MaryAnne DellaFera December 31, 2018 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Ah, yes! Perfect timing, Jed! My move to Italy is all about living now and not waiting for something in the future, or even worse, holding on to something in the past.

    I’ve been paring down my “stuff”, finding what’s really important. All those things that have been hidden for years, carefully moved from place to place but never used, worn, enjoyed. Actually I’ve done this before, but this is the most extreme paring down that I’ve ever done. I have a little more than 3 weeks before I leave permanently for Italy. I’m taking only 10 small boxes of stuff, and my dogs, of course! Things I’ve hauled around for years have been donated! In fact the only thing I’m selling is my old pickup truck. Everything else is being donated, if it has any value at all. I just decided that is the most fitting way to end this life in preparation for the next.

    The last of my veterinary textbooks (almost 40 yrs old and out of date). GONE! A few treasures of my mother’s (including her silverware!)–headed to my sister. The only thing I’ve shed some tears over is my piano. I’ve had a piano my whole life. I gave up my Baby Grand years ago, replaced by an easier to move digital piano. But even this is leaving. Arthritis in my hands has made playing difficult and painful, so the piano is mostly a symbol and reminder of the old me. It’s going to a nursing home, so others can enjoy playing again.

    There is a more complicated paring down, also. Family, friends. They are withdrawing. Some are confused and even angry about my choice. We could stay connected in this digital age, but I can sense that they don’t want to. My leaving is threatening to their own sense of self. This is painful and frightening for them, so they’re withdrawing. It makes me realize even more how much others put us in a role to make themselves comfortable, so I am working through this also. Who am I, when I am not being defined by others?? Most people are too frightened to explore that question. Old roles are comfortable, even when they’re stifling. I’ve struggled against this my whole life, insisting on defining myself. Others don’t like that!

    What do I want to keep of myself, what needs to be ejected? I have the sneaking suspicion that I don’t get to choose! Maybe that’s a good thing.

    Thanks for triggering these thoughts, Jed! Your musings are always so pertinent!

    • Jed January 4, 2019 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      I so appreciate your reflections on the paring down process, not only with material things but with friends and family. I pared down my belongings to fourteen boxes and only a few precious smaller pieces of furniture. It was freeing, though I still brought close to fifty pairs of shoes with me (I know, a male Imelda Marcos). I felt a huge weight lift (minus the shoes). However, I wasn’t prepared for other waves of paring down. Those waves commenced with the passing of my mother during my first year in Italy and seeing, along with my sisters, just how much she’d been carrying through life, much of which was simply gathering dust. The big question I ask myself these days is what will serve me best going forward. What things keep me entrenched in the past and which few things can evoke the fondest connections and memories while simultaneously holding and appreciating the present?
      The paring down of friends and family can feel like one is being pruned. I’m continually fascinated with how people can expect others to faithfully execute the role they’ve assigned them. Taking such a brave step really can provoke other people’s insecurities and discomfort. It can cause them to examine themselves and the choices they’ve made. Brava to you for moving ahead and challenging the status quo!
      Jed

  6. Kathryn Smith December 29, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Oh, how I love this! And how appropriate to this time of year, when we trot out the “good” china and silver for our Christmas feasts. I have no family sterling (still in use by MY mother!), but I started using silver plate for every day years ago. I collect odd pieces of it at thrift and antique stores, a prized few from the Paris flea market, and I love picking them out and examining the “artwork” of the handle. As a real flip of the coin, this Christmas, I wanted to set my table in a silver and white ice theme but had no appropriate china. So I went to the local Goodwill store on Christmas eve and found, to my delight, a complete set of silver banded white china for $12. I bought it and my table was beautiful. I may never use the china again — in fact, it may be recycled back to Goodwill — but I so enjoyed creating that pretty table for my husband and parents.

    • Jed December 30, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Thank, Kathryn, for sharing your story. I LOVE how you found the china at Goodwill. Did you take photos of your silver and white table setting? I also love the idea of collecting silverplate flatware. I once went down that road and had a wonderfully eclectic collection from flea markets all over the world!

  7. Joy December 29, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Jed,
    Thank you for responding to my comment. I look forward to reading your past and future posts. I will look to them as preparation for and in anticipation of my new Italian life.
    Joy

  8. Amy McGregor-Radin December 29, 2018 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    A well-timed and beautifully written reminder to stop waiting. Thank you.

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, my friend. Hope to enjoy your presence again here in Italy again soon. I’m so grateful that Shelley brought you, a lovely piece of sterling, into my life!

  9. Maryann Mauer December 29, 2018 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    Absolutely LOVE this …the image, the quotes, the sentiment. Perfetto!

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      You, my dear, dear friend, understand this so keenly. Thank you! xoxox

  10. Christine Montgomery December 29, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Brilliant, Jed. Thank you.

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      Prego, Christine. I’m so pleased you like this. Buone Feste and Tanti Auguri to you and yours!

  11. Robin Fink December 29, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Very well said, Jed. I love your posts show how to really enjoy day to day life.Thanks once again. All the best for 2019! Robin

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      As always, Robin, I love hearing from you! I’ve spent a lifetime all too focused on the future, neglecting what is right in front of me. Reminders do come from the most unexpected places, don’t they? Tanti auguri to your and Markus! Hope to see you soon! Jed

  12. Elizabeth Ann Flanagan Wholey December 29, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Lovely, Jed, and especially timely advice at the end of the old year.

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:23 pm - Reply

      Ciao Elizabeth! I’m so pleased you like this. I love how we all can remind each other to “be here now!” Miss you!

  13. Charlene December 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Your story is perfect timing for me. Thank you!

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Charlene! I love how stories come to us just when we need them. Seventy-five percent of the time, these stories “visit” me out of nowhere and tell me to write them!

  14. Joy December 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Oh! I adored this story. I came to the very same conclusion regarding my silverware a few years ago when my life changed in some very significant ways and I found myself reinventing my life.

    I am an Italian dual citizen. I will be retiring in November 2020 at 62 years old…because I too don’t want to postpone happiness! I will be moving from Raleigh, North Carolina to the town my grandfather was born in Sicily…Cefalu.

    I wish you the BEST!
    Joy

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Grazie mille, Joy! Lucky you to be a dual citizen and have your path already paved for making the move. I’ll have mine in a couple of years after the obligatory two-year wait but I’m already well set with my permanent residency!
      I love how you use the phrase “reinventing my life.” Brava to you! I’ve been to Cefalú and loved it. What a great place to settle. The street and balcony stories playing out on a daily basis are endless. Btw, I have family in both Raleigh and in Wilmington. Small world! Tanti auguri! Jed

  15. Nancy December 29, 2018 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Wow Jed, I love this post. So true. And by your moving out of your US comfort zone you definitely moved out of the china closet! Enjoy your precious things.

    • Jed December 29, 2018 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nancy, for the encouragement! You, too, know all shaking things up with your own move as your blogs posts articulate so well!

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