Hometown Histories

From Goodwill

Mostly stainless steel gussied up like real silver, they glitter through their nicks, flocks of rust, bent prongs. What doesn't shine may even be sterling. Grey, tinged, blue-black, camouflaged as if ashamed of how it's fallen. Yet an old duchess hit by hard times might just polish up.... Discreetly, I spit on the bowl of one dingy spoon, rub until my finger turns black, the spot emits a shy gleam. Illegible symbols on the back of the shaft hint lineage, simplicity imitates taste. Each piece in the bin costs 25 cents. At home, it takes hours' worth of my time to find polish, pry up childproof caps, scour first with brass polish, then gunk for silver. Fingers aching, I buff the whole spoon to a dull, very dull glow. Most silver's gone. How many washings, how many mouths, and whose.... New: a shimmering gift to a long-ago bride. Worn thin: hand-me-down to a fourth daughter's dowry. Too drab to join my grandmama's matched set adorned with curlicues, monograms, every piece radiant, unscratched. Yet I can't relegate this - prize - to the kitchen. So it stays in my cluttered study where I allow only poets, exiles, and refugees, my tarnished familiars, friends with unfortunate histories, a story to tell.

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