The Sugar Dish

The Sugar Dishtal·is·man  /ˈtalismən/

Noun.  An object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.  Synonyms: charm, amulet, mascot, phylactery*

This is the first talisman that I can remember identifying for myself:  a yellow Tupperware creamer that my family used as a sugar dispenser.  My mother noticed this one sitting on my kitchen counter last weekend and asked if it was the one from her house.  “No, I found that one on eBay ” I explained.  I didn’t explain WHY I was on eBay looking for an old Tupperware creamer, now did I?

When I was about 7 or 8, I was already old enough to know that money wasn’t an easy thing for our family.  There were times when there wasn’t enough and that was just the way it was.  One night while my parents were watching the evening news, I heard the anchorman foretelling some shock to the global economy that would send sugar prices sky-rocketing.  SUGAR?  I was old enough to understand that and know its value!  I sidled into the kitchen and opened up the cabinet above the coffee maker.  I took down the sugar dish and checked to make sure that it was full.  It was.  And that meant that we were OK. To this day, I can remember the weight of that full sugar dish in my small hand and the feeling of safety that crept through me.  If sugar was expensive and we had plenty, we were OK.

I can’t remember what knocked that memory of the comforting sugar dish back into place.  When eBay first took off, I took advantage of the opportunity to reclaim lost things from my childhood.  I found an old aluminum cookie cutter shaped like a horse and another shaped like a bunny.  I found a yellow sugar dish all my own.  One Christmas, Fartbuster won me a 1946 edition of The Littlest Angel exactly like the version our Grandmother Eunice read to us when we spent the night with her.  I bought a blue glass slipper like the one she used to hold her bobby pins.

I surrounded myself with things that made me feel safe and loved.  That’s all a talisman is.  There’s not magic inherent in it, only the magic you entrust to it.

What makes you feel safe?  Shake the memory loose then go and find it again.

*  A phylactery is the small leather box containing Hebrew texts on vellum, worn by Jewish men at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law.  I learned a new word today, how about you?

9 thoughts on “The Sugar Dish

  1. Annabel Brooks

    When I was little, I would stand in my parents’ closet to smell their clothes. That sounds weird and makes me laugh when I type it. My dad’s member’s only jacket smelled like a mixture of cigarettes, cologne, and liquor because he was a bouncer at a bar. My mom’s clothes smelled like detergent and the bank she worked in. In addition to those smells, their clothes acquired what I refer to as “closet smell.” They were clean, but just smelled like an old closet–probably moisture and maybe some milder because the house I grew up in was built in 1826. All of these smells working together was heaven to me. All those smells made me feel incredibly safe and sound. Somehow today my clothes smell similar to the way my parents’ clothes smelled. It could be that I’m a raging alcoholic, chain smoker, wearer of old men’s cologne, a bank teller that washes clothes with Gain, and a slightly mildewy kind of person. For whatever reason my clothes smell similar…similar body chemistry?…I’m happy for it. I welcome that safe feeling and nostalgia. I remember the love I have for my parents.

    1. baddestmotherever

      I LOVE IT!!! Guess what smell brings back my childhood? Cow shit and Marlboro cigarettes! My dad is a retired veterinarian (and reformed smoker). Canoe aftershave, Marlboro cigarettes and Dingo boots covered in cow shit.

  2. Debra Helwig

    I was in the hospital when my grandmother’s house was dismantled and her things dispersed and sold, so I wasn’t given the chance to “pick the things I wanted”. My mom was generous, mind you – she sent me an entire moving van full of “Lady’s” things. But my soul cried out over the little Rookwood cat, the Edison lightbulbs, the corn dishes shaped like ears of corn. Silly things. But things that said “safe place” and “grandmother” to me. The year my daughter was born, I went on eBay and bought the Mickey Mouse Christmas blowlight I’d had as a child and that my mother gave away when I went to college. It’s in her room now. It’s a connection, a gift from the little girl I was to the little girl she is. She doesn’t understand it, but I do. It’s love, all made of plastic and a 4 watt bulb. ( My house is full to the rafters of “stuff” – but it’s not “stuff” to me. It’s markers of places and people and moments. Touchstones, every one.
    Beautiful post. THANK YOU.

    1. baddestmotherever

      Oh, Deb. When my grandmother died, my dad and stepmother asked what we would like from her things. I asked for the banged up yello cookie tin that always smelled like Oreos. My brother asked for it too! It had already gone in the trash because who would have thought that was the one thing that meant so much to us. I would have loved to have her boxes and boxes of costume jewelry and a box of Coty face powder, just to smell it again. I bet I can find that powder on eBay!

  3. Margaret

    i have one of those sugar bowls sitting in my kitchen right now. My brother in law didn’t like it so I got it. I’ve had it so long I don’t even know when I got it. I have the painted tuna can with cloth flowers glued on that I made in Bible school that my mother kept her bobby pins in and Daddy’s Case knife. My children see things here that remind them of their grands so I give them away right then.


Want to Leave a Comment? Please Do!