Memory Colander

As the calendar pages fly, our memories flex and change, some moving slowly to the back shelf, others flowing forward and easily fronting. What keeps the often-tenuous connection to the back of the brain’s library of life are anchors, those possessions, those things which instantly remind us of those memories, and those who helped us form them.

Sometimes, the anchor is obvious: an album of photos, a card, a voice mail. But many times, the anchor isn’t so obvious, even to the one holding the memory. And sometimes, it is the kedging of that anchor which prompts the memory.

Such an event happened to me recently. After decades of use, my old colander finally rinsed its last basket of dark Bing cherries. It was an unexpectedly sad moment for me, silly, since it wasn’t a valuable antique, just an old cornflower blue plastic thing, full of small cracks after long use. The colander fell off the dish drainer as I was retting up the dishes. One of the cracks finally gave way: when it hit the linoleum, a small piece, shaped like a miniature Ohio, popped up and out. A colander cannot be of much use with a hole bigger than that which it’s to hold.

It was a poignant moment, the making of the memory colander, since it had belonged to my late mother. She’d have been 74 the 3rd of this month, but passed at the very young age of 51. That old colander had been one she’d used, so each time I used it, I was in touch with her, whether I consciously thought of it or not.

The word colander comes to us from Provence, the old French colador, and can find its origin in the Late Latin colare, to filter, and from Latin colum, sieve.

While the end of my old cornflower blue colander marks the passing of its life as an anchor, it’s not truly a sad thing. Mom left me much more in the way of anchors, memories, tangibles. The old sieve, passed from one cook to another, is gone, but the memory of that cook, and the skills she passed to me, will always be forefront.