Stubborn Artifacts of Existence

Not long ago, I noticed a crack in my mother’s Vintage Ekco Chromium Plated Black Handle 11-3/8″ Slotted Spatula Flipper USA, a fissure running out from the pressure point created by one of two steel studs affixing blade to handle. This trusty, well-worn utensil has been showing its age for a while—rust stains left on the counter after washing, a fretwork of indentations melted into the plastic handle where my mom before me, and I, let it perch against the rim of a sizzling skillet in the heat of dinner preparations.

I can replace it on eBay for $7.95 plus shipping, but I won’t. I’ve purchased two possible replacements at GoodWill for $.69 each, but haven’t yet put them into service. Neither seems up to the job, somehow.

A child doesn’t imagine a steel spatula fracturing, the fillings the dentist put into newly emerged grownup teeth failing and leading to cracks and complications and crowns 40 years hence, the hips and knees that toddled, then ran, and carry us through our lives simply wearing out—can’t even conceive that the pale, limp, sliced-bread French toast of the 1960’s served up by the indispensable spatula will be superseded by elaborate recipes for thick, crusty slices of artisanal bread soaked in heady brews of egg, milk, syrups and liqueurs, dredged in exotic sugars and showered with fruits flown in from far fields.  While the foodie French toasts of today surely surpass the humble-yet-special weekend offering of my childhood, dribbled with Vermont Maid syrup containing some token dollop of real maple, the memory of that offering still makes me feel loved, cared for, content.

We live among so many things, are gifted with and acquire so many objects, that tidying up and organizing and decluttering has become an industry, an international obsession. I, too, share a wild desire to live amidst fewer things, to have less stuff encumbering my daily activity, to move fewer piles of paper from table to closet and back when guests come to supper.

And so, my mother’s spatula. Somewhere in the world, it could still be indispensable, and as I pass it on (ideally to a scrapper rather than a landfill), I am humbled by the obstinate existence of this unassuming tool, conveyer of French toast and memory, stubborn artifact of existence, subject, like those who have wielded it, to use and wear and pressure points, to the passage of time.

Mary Peckham for The Poplar Grove Muse

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