Reliable, waiting for Grampie’s parched lips to seek the pure, cool refreshment it provided inside, the tin cup hung with dignity by the handle end crooked over the lip of the stoneware crock. The crock with blue hand painted stripe ran around its girth like a belt around its barrel shape, held fresh cold water. Like a sentinel at the edge of the freshly oiled cast iron sink, waiting for him to remove the lid of the crock and dip the battered old tin cup on its long handle down into the cool water, he threw back his head slurping a long drink after a day of laboring on his island farm.
The 12-oz. tin cup was a dull grey from the friction of many years’ past use, displaying various odd shaped dents and dings speaking of numerous inadvertent thuds against something harder than its tin metal self. Maybe that culprit had been the wood cook stove. Perhaps the ladle was used as a gavel to demand Gramie’s attention or had been used as a playful kitchen tool for a child fascinated by making different sounds. Maybe the ladle would have been used by my grandfather as a teasing husband looking for some fun on a warm spring evening when the peepers were out.
The crock and ladle were fixtures in the kitchen. The ladle offered a clear cool drink of water after long mornings of planting winter rye, summers of dry-as-a-bone haying or a welcome respite from thirsty afternoons of chopping wood for winters’ heating. Hanging there it waited to relieve thirst after he consumed great quantities of Grammie’s famous Saturday night baked beans loaded with salt pork. The ladle was exclusively Grampie’s drinking cup. Grammie took her refreshment from the crock too but in a 12-oz. jelly jar turned drinking glass. In those days people collected series of painted jelly jars, some decorated with movie themes or cartoon character decals.
I wonder, as I turn the tin ladle over in my hand now, if there isn’t some direct connection, a silent vibration between the pleasures this tin cup ladle gave my weary Grandparents and my warm hand today? As I glance at my reflection in the window, I see a warm smile on my face and know my heart is glad to have that memory. I am the keeper of the tin cup now and with this story I will pass it along to my daughter when she is mature, curious about her roots, and the time is right. These are small comforts and happy memories in the daily routine of the sole residents of a tiny freshwater game preserve island in the Kennebec River.