Silver Spoons, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:35am

Silver Iced Tea Spoon

My mother is recovering from surgery.

It’s important that she consumes no alcohol, so at 5pm one evening I made her a drink with Pellegrino, fresh squeezed Meyer lemon from her tree, sugar, and mint sprigs. What the French probably call citron pressé avec gaz, and the Vietnamese restaurants in San Francisco sell as fresh lemon soda.

I used one of her old silver iced tea spoons to stir, and also as the straw she needed for drinking, The stem is hollow, it works like all straws do.

There’s been some brouhaha recently about privilege. A young woman ostensibly wrote an article complaining that people hated her because she has money. Her voice was not terribly likeable.  You can read the original post, and then a response, both in Thought Catalog. The responder sounds like a much nicer person.

This all may have been manufactured for noise – fake writers, fake stories, and so on. But the issue of privilege persists.

In some cultures discussing one’s good fortune is well accepted. In America, I think it’s better tempered by humility and discretion. However, I began this blog as a way to tell the story of Mom’s iced tea spoons and their place in my memory. Vivid from childhood just as others remember peach pies baking, the lure of lakes in public parks, spice grinders, loam.

We’re all human beings, a species of animal, after all. It’s very complex, figuring out right and wrong, correct and incorrect, at least I have always found it so. So I try not to be a jerk. That much is pretty simple. We get born and if we’re lucky we get old. I’d save hate for those few times it’s really warranted.

Mom is napping. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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  • If I were recovering from surgery, I’d want a lovely lemony drink too. Very nice and thoughtful. May she recover quickly. Privilege or no, we all have to take time to recover from things.

  • I hope that your mother is recovering well. The drink sounded lovely and of course the lemon juice would keep the spoon sparkling as well.

  • This is also a drink the Israelis claim. I like to infuse the mint in a simple syrup.

  • Lisa, you write about these every day things and it’s like reading poetry. You really have a gift. Best wishes for your mother’s speedy recovery.

    5:13 pm
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Writing this was my reward to myself for the labor.

  • Recognizing privilege and writing about it so eloquently is exactly like poetry. Gorgeous post Lisa. It sounds like you are taking very good care of your mother, but I bet it feels like a privilege.:)

  • Recently bumped into another’s (only slightly disguised) envy of my own privilege (which was primarily one of being born into a generation for whom the world apparently burped out all sorts of goodies — never mind the individual backgrounds and trajectories and challenges). I kept mum and sympathized with her wish for a house/condo of her own. Didn’t mention the 12% mortgage rates, the years of frugality, her unwillingness to accept real estate risk over the past 8 years I’ve known her, etc. because the reality is I am, now, privileged. Self-reflexivity is a good thing, as you demonstrate here, lyrically and thoughtfully.
    May your silver spoon continue to be enjoyed by you and your mother — the greater privilege, as DaniBP says, is being able to care for her. May she heal quickly. xo

    5:16 pm
    Lisa said...

    It is very helpful to be reminded that caring for her is a privilege too.

  • What a great 2 helpers to heal is your Mother’s silver spoon,have never heard of one used as a straw before.Am sure with your help she will make a comfortable recovery.
    When I saw the heading ‘Silver spoons’ I felt uncomfortable as it triggered what others’ called us gels….snobs born with silver spoons in their ‘gobs’
    crude word for mouths.Aaah if only they knew how hard work won my G/father’s wealth.

    5:17 pm
    Lisa said...

    I’d love to hear the story of your grandfather. I bet it’s a good one.

  • I most definitely wasn’t born into privilege but acquired it 10 years or so after marriage, when my husband’s businesses became successful. Funny how, here in the states, attitudes toward privilege depend on when the silver spoon was handed out. I’m sorry your mom can’t have alcohol(dayem) but I hope you two can enjoy this time together.

  • Sorry to hear about your mom, and it’s very sweet of you to be there helping.
    I hope she makes a complete recovery, and you two can share a real drink soon!

  • Lisa, you are very good to help your mother recover from surgery. The non-alcoholic drink you prepared for her sounds delicious!

  • Oh I do hope your Mother makes a swift recovery…it’s a worry.
    Like you I would want to be close by keeping an eye on her progress…

    I’ve never felt that you were bragging or holding your head a little higher than any of us. I don’t understand why people get on their high horse about this kind of thing.
    There will always be someone with more money or a better car or house or social standing as will there always be someone poor, down on their luck and worse ~ destitute. That’s life.

    I’d love a citron presse…may I borrow your Mother’s sppon please?

  • Spoon…typo’s go away please!

  • Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your mother and three cheers for the silver spoon. I don’t think it matters how you got it but how you use it. You use it to provide carefully deconstructed reflections on life and society. You obviously got those good manners from your mother so she deserves her life with those silver spoons

  • Having come from the other side of things, generations of poverty and chaos, seeing how people treat each other in university I can really kind of understand and empathize with the slightly defensive tone of that writing. There is plenty of nasty resentment going around, and truly no amount of poverty or suffering justifies it. I’m so glad and thankful for people of means to be thoughtful, conscientious, generous, understanding, but we have gone wrong if we feel personally entitled to that, or feel we are owed justifications and apologies for the success and good fortune of others.

    5:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    It was defensive, you are right – I indulged myself as a reward for my efforts.

  • Did the spoons make the lemonade have a different taste? Some time ago I read a book where the author went off about drinking Coca-Cola from silver cups and how it gave it a particular taste.

    Good health is highly underrated until you don’t have it anymore. I hope your Mom recovers uneventfully.

    5:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    No, not that I have ever noticed.

  • Is there not, at the heart of this, love? Whether with a plastic straw or family silver, it is care, attention, devotion. Priceless.

    7:40 pm
    Kathy said...


    6:35 am
    susan said...

    Brava, Duchesse. The true meaning of life.

    7:46 am
    Candace said...

    Beautifully said. Yes, love and caring.

    5:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    I carefully avoided pointing out that the spoon is in the shape of a heart. But it is, and I agree.

  • Best wishes to your mother for a speedy recovery. The love exemplified by the drink you made for her will certainly help.

  • Hope your mom recovers easily. How wonderful that you still have her. My mom was 87 when she passed in 2011 and I have thought about her this summer every time I bought sweet corn( was it picked this morning?) or bought green beans. I know she appreciates your loving attention.

    5:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    Sweet corn, green beans. Lovely.

  • I read the plight made by a young woman who’s just starting to find her way in the world and learn life’s lessons as we all do. I prefer the more mature and thoughtful viewpoints made here.
    I hope your mother makes a speedy recovery and that brings to mind the only (non-romantic) life guidance my mother ever gave me: “To thine own self be true”.

  • “We get born and if we’re lucky we get old. I’d save hate for those few times it’s really warranted.” You are so right. That’s what’s important.

    I took care of my mother when she was ill. It was a privilege and a gift. You’re a very good daughter.

    4:02 pm
    MSC said...

    Isn’t that the quote of the year? If this culture saved the hate for when it was really warranted we’d be in a much different and better place.

  • My mother believed that if you had good morals, good manners, and read good books, the rest of life would pretty much fall into place…and she was right. I have a private boarding school education and have also struggled paycheck to paycheck in early marriage. I have always felt privileged. The blessings of family, health, and, oh, “let me count the ways”.
    And having a daughter who cares— love is the greatest privilege of all.

  • I hope your mum has a swift recovery, she sounds very well looked after, that will help, we all need to be cosseted when we’re ill.

    5:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    Cosseted is the best word.

  • I come from a monetarily “poor” family. However, my parents endeavored to give us exposure to the arts, differing political opinions, strong listening skills and hours of practical etiquette training throughout our lives. Knowing I came from nothing, I studied wealthy society beginning at age 12 through the pages of “Town & Country” and etiquette books. It appeared if one wanted the Good Life, a girl in my position had better aim for scholarships at a Seven Sisters school and I directed my sights accordingly. My father had taken on a position running an ecumenical bookstore in addition to his responsibilities as a clergyman to ensure we had extras. He put all five of us children to work, each according to our skills. We spent 2 wks. in the high Adirondacks every August: camping, hiking daily, canoeing. My parents enjoyed season tickets to the opera, theater, symphony, jazz series. Each of us was expected to attend an evening out at least once a month. My mother, the daughter of a factory worker & a furrier, purchased sterling, china and crystal for her “hope chest” at 17, paying for it on a time plan so she might be ready for a good marriage. I was taught how to set a formal table by the time I was 8, I knew how to correctly iron damask tablecloths, the difference between luncheon and dinner-sized napkins. I was responsible for ironing my father’s handkerchiefs, one for every day.
    Yet we traveled with embarrassing brown bags full of homemade sandwiches and hard boiled eggs: lunches to be enjoyed at roadside picnic tables because we could not afford to eat in restaurants on the 2 hr. drive to New York for a day at the Met Museum. Our “wood”-paneled Chevy Impala stationwagon could fit the sleeping bags of 5 children. We departed at 10 pm to avoid motels, my father speeding through sunrise to our destination; most likely, a city, full of free museums, with friends nearby where we children would sleep on the floor as my parents slept in the guest room. When we moved from my beloved Connecticut to upstate New York, I sat for a scholarship exam at the closest private school and won a place there until graduation. I continued my job as a telephone receptionist from 8-9 am, a job I had done since 5th grade when I covered for the secretary and principal during lunch at the public elementary school I attended. Although we did not have money, I do believe, I was privileged. My life as a clergyman’s daughter was similar to that of the politician’s. Good manners, the ability to engage others in conversation easily, to smooth ruffled feathers, to dodge strange questions, to keep private information private: all these attributes I learned in my fish bowl environment. My life is proof if one is intelligent or well read, versed in current events, congenial, practices excellent table manners and writes prompt thank you notes, one is welcome and invited anywhere, even to the most exclusive clubs with the exception of those at which “one must never invite a guest whom cannot be considered for membership.” But that’s a topic into itself and I don’t believe Ms. Menendez’ privileges fall into that rarified category. Her pleas not to be judged ring hollow to me; they result from her supplying facts that to others thst aren’t anyone’s business. She has concerns over her JCrew purchases. Really? Let me know when your friends comment about your use of Hermès brown ribbons to tie your ponytail, or your UPS man makes comments about your Chanel or Loro Piano deliveries. Ms. Menendez has been given an educational advantage, but not entré into the hollowed halls of privilege where internships at Condé Nast exist or positions at your dad’s frat brother’s law firm are provided after luncheon interviews at the University Club. I have lived and socialized near and in Palm Beach for 30 years. I’ve been exposed to the not so nice side of WASP gentry as exemplified by the notorious N.O.K.D. (“Not Our Kind, Dear”) whispers behind French-manicured hands. However, as the face of America continues to change from Wonder bread white to Latino yellow, this attitude is dying. Nevertheless, Ms. Menendez would find the most tony clubs of Palm Beach closed to her simply by virtue of her last name. Her apologist stance is weak, poorly justified and finally, sad. To have gone on record with such an argument is a reflection of her basic lack of gratitude. It is rich with paranoid ideations of upper middle-class grandeur. I apologize for going on; it’s sunrise. I have been writing & editing this comment for hours on my iPhone 4 with my 1 good hand. My desktop has been abandoned as I cannot feel the keyboard after 4 vertebrae were replaced in my neck after they collapsed after once-in-a-lifetime extreme radiation after 5 bouts of thyroid cancer. When they crumbled, my chin began to cover my trach, robbing me of oxygen, forcing me to seek drastic surgery or suffocate. I love this blog. I apologize if my thoughts are not as succinct as I want them to be. I utilize a drug delivery pump embedded in my abdomen to deliver morphine directly to my brain where it’s needed so I no longer need oral painkillers resulting in a dose of only 10% of the medication I used to intake. It’s a slow process, impeded by back-to-back kidney cancer recurrences. I beg the pardon of this readership for awkward words or phrases.I hope most readers will have patience with me as I move through more years of recovery. Lisa: feel free to edit my copy as you see fit for clarity, I don’t mind. Thank you for allowing me to comment here.

  • My best to your Mother. Little things mean so much. Soups delivered by friends, beautiful bed jackets, bedside decanters with matching glasses filled with distilled water and fresh orange slices (they don’t add as much bitterness to the water as lemon rinds do), a little boudoir pillow, a small box of truffles, a fresh flower from the yard in a pretty container, scented batt gels, pocket-sized Kleenex for my robe, new slippers, and, if one has no abdominal stitches, a few decent, funny books: Nora Ephron, quintessential Erma Bombeck, Anne LaMott. These are some of my favorite things that have helped me stay comfortable and feel good about myself through hideous circumstances like stomach feeding tubes, the inability to swallow, a brain that could not capture the nuance of weightier material. The silver spoons are a lovely addition. Having cancer has taught me to use lovely things daily, not save them for “special occasions” because everyday is a gift, “that’s why they call it: The Present”.

    5:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    I wish you absolutely all the best. I wish you many good days.

  • I have always considered myself privileged. I’ve had so many friend with more means than myself. And they have shared generously over the years. Trips abroad,summers in their lake or ocean cottages, plays, restaurants, so many things I couldn’t afford on my own with my chosen profession.

    And I considered myself privileged to have met you and share in your life both the\n and now.

    It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you choose to do with it.

    xo Jane

    5:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    Such a nice thing to say. Back at you.

  • Wishing your mother a full and speedy recovery. xo

  • Wishing your mother a quick recovery! What a delightful spoon, a good ” trailer ” to the two writings you have linked to your post.
    I have not experienced either circumstances, but do have the feeling, that neither writer is completely happy.
    Can we actually ever be completely happy, content, without the slightest bit of envy on the life of someone else ?
    Isn´t envy a natural emotion for a human being ?
    Making the best of it, we too might be able to achieve something we want to have. Be it less or more wealth or something else.
    Your writing brought back a memory I have of my own mother.
    My first born daughter graduated excellently. My mother felt very depressed, and when I asked her the reason for it, she told me, that she felt sorry for all the other students who did not succeed so well.
    I do find a similarity with my story and the links you shared. Sigh.

    5:26 pm
    Lisa said...

    Sigh. And that very American of responses, a hug.

  • Don’t be a jerk… excellent ethical guidance for us all to bear in mind!

  • I really hope your mother is getting better. You have been blessed I think with healthy parents and may it remain so for a long long time to come. I lost my father 2 years ago and still have few words for the pain of that incision.

    Envy is a dark and sometimes perhaps inevitable thing, I don’t know. I do remember moments when I thought if I’d had parents who were closer to my own ambitions I’d have pursued my own creative way with considerably less anxiety and self-doubt, as I’ve seen children of artists do.

    On the other hand I was totally astonished when a former colleague of mine expressed her envy over my command of English, due to privilege, she felt. It’s true I wouldn’t have come by it if my parents hadn’t been willing to let me learn from a young age, on the other hand it took me decades of learning and practice to get where I’m now.I’d just never stopped to think about it.

    What I do know is that everything you dreamed of, fought for and either did or sometimes didn’t fully achieve is priceless and impervious to envy.

    I guess it remains true: Life isn’t fair and we need to deal with it, cutting each other some slack.

    5:28 pm
    Lisa said...

    I think you are right. Envy is just the worst.

  • I hope that your mom makes a speedy recovery. (That is a lovely iced tea spoon, btw.)

  • I send along the very best of wishes to your mother for a speedy recovery, Lisa!

  • Best wishes to your mother for a speedy recovery. Everyone should have such a daughter as you. The lovely spoon alone must have raised her spirits. I have fond memories of many, many meals eaten at my grandparents’ table with my grandmother’s silver, which I inherited. I think of her every time I use it.

  • “We get born and if we’re lucky we get old. I’d save the hate for those few times it’s really warranted.” It’s very rarely warranted. Thank you for this post. I buried my mother a year ago. She was 69 and everything she did, she did out of love, making me very privileged indeed. I wish your mother many more years of good health.

    5:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  • I hope your mother is recovering Lisa. I love the story (and photo) of the spoons. I’m convinced that the little details are always more important than we realize.

    xo Mary Jo

  • If you’re reading this on Monday, then happy birthday, Lisa. Hope mom did well over the weekend. Have a wonderful day feeling privileged with love and good company to celebrate. xoxo

  • I hope your mother’s recovery is speedy.

    My daughter was there for me after some minor surgery. I’d like to say I’ll never forget it but the pain meds have made the memory very foggy. I will, however, be forever grateful.

    I read both thought catalog posts. Wondering if writer #1 was aiming for sarcasm. Doesn’t seem possible for a person to have survived the rigors of a college education only to enter trw so uneducated.

    5:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    Gratitude despite fog. Sort of a mantra for a lot of things in life, right?:)

  • I hope your mother makes a speedy recovery!

  • I hope your Mom has a speedy and complete recovery! And you as well, PBCHic.

  • Sending thoughts of a speedy recovery to your mother. And I believe there is definitely a place to discuss privilege. It’s a difficult territory to explore, but I think you do it well, Lisa.

  • Wishing your mother all good things for her recovery. Your love and presence and a lemon drink made with care from one’s own garden sound very good indeed.

  • Hope your mom is doing well. She is lucky to have you, and you to be able to care for her. Privilege comes in so many guises.

    When I was young my great uncle would make us lemonade with lemons from his tree, sweetened with grenadine. We would have his tall iced-tea spoons, like your mother’s, with the hollow stems, which we would use as straws. Sipping pink lemonade through those silver “straws” transformed a simple summer afternoon into a special treat.