Like most young people, my kids have no interest in taking any of my hand-me-downs.
In the first place, all three of them are the minimalist type. Why own more than you need, they ask? Why fill up our space with things we’ll hardly use?
They don’t want the old dishes, the curtains that went out of style in 1978, the beat up tools or the heirloom, dusty books.
No thanks, they say. We appreciate the offer, but nope.
And the good Lord knows that we don’t have any real valuables to leave them. I was never one for expensive jewelry, so there are no diamonds or gold to pass on. There are no antique desks to leave, not that anyone would want them.
So what will I leave to my kids when I take that trip over the old river and into the woods?
The only thing I truly want one of them to have is my old hammered aluminum sauce pan.
My Mom got this pan, I believe, back in 1950. I think it was a wedding gift. She used it for most of my childhood to make big pots of soup, or sometimes a stew.
Mostly though, it was used to make the sauce.
You brown the meatballs in the bottom of the big heavy pan, then take them out while you add the tomatoes, the spices, the garlic and onion and bay leaves. You add a splash or three of red wine. Put the meat back in and let the whole thing simmer for hours.
My mother taught me how to do it just like she did. I learned that the right way to taste it is to dip in a piece of Italian bread and eat it with the sauce. I learned that if it wasn’t sweet enough, you put in more basil and more wine.
Sunday dinners were most often those meatballs, sometimes some sausage, and that thick, rich, comforting sauce ladled over pasta.
At some point in my life, the heat proof handle of the pot broke off, and my Dad replaced it with a temporary one. It was always hard not to get a burn when lifting the lid after that.
When my parents had been married for decades, and finances were beginning to ease, my Mother bought herself a set of beautiful new cookware. Revere ware, I think it was. The new sauce pans were smooth, and shiny and heat proof and excellent.
The old hammered aluminum went into the basement.
And there is tayed until I got married in 1978. I asked my Mom if I could have it, as Paul and I were just starting out in life, and were mostly using hand-me-down items.
She happily agreed.
And so the tradition continued. I made the meatballs and browned the sausages in that same old pan, broken cover and all. I simmered the sauce and ladled it over the pasta for my three kids, and for their friends and ours.
Over my own decades of marriage, I’ve also invested in some good cookware. I even have a beautiful cast iron dutch oven that is theoretically perfect for making sauce.
But you know what?
It just doesn’t taste the same when I make it in any other pan than the old hammered aluminum, with it’s age darkened bottom and outdated wire handle.
Today I cooked for my sons, who are coming tomorrow to help us with some heavy lifting as we clean out the garage and basement. It’s time to let a lot of old items go. Old furniture, old tools, old bedding. Out it will go with the help of youthful muscles.
And then we’ll all come inside and eat big plates of pasta, with meatballs and sauce that I made in the old hammered aluminum pan.
When I go, as go I must one of these fine days, I just want one of my three kids to take home the old pan. I want them to make the meatballs and sauce just the way I taught them, using the recipe that I got from my Mom, and that she got from hers.
I hope that they sit at the table together, dipping good bread into their sauce, and remembering mealtimes at my table.
That seems like a pretty good legacy to me.