“Remind me to go through that box with you before you leave,” my Dad said as he ushered me into my childhood bedroom. He gestured to a dusty looking Costco box that had to be at least 30 years old.
“What’s in it?” I asked sleepily. It was nearly two in the morning, and I was exhausted from my late-night flight to Seattle.
“It’s stuff from Norway,” he revealed with a grin, knowing goods from the Motherland would peak my interest. “Your Grandpa and I brought most of it back from our trip in 1980, but there’s also some things my grandparents brought over with them when they came to America.”
I hugged Dad goodnight, crawling into bed with visions of the colorful wool textiles and hand painted rosemaling I’d be bringing back to Minnesota with me.
Turns out, I had slightly misinterpreted Mark’s invitation. Apparently, “I want to go through that box with you before you leave” roughly translates to “I’m going to show you all of this really amazing stuff…but you can’t have any of it until I die.”
In some ways, this was understandable. The hand-carved wedding bowl that’s been in our family since 1701? The wooden butter-mold my great, great grandparents used on their farm? Sure. These are things Dad can watch over for as long as he likes.
But the dozens of decorative plates, hand-woven cloths and traditional Norwegian pottery? That I did not understand.
“Dad…it would be one thing if you had these on display. But you’re just putting them back in the box. No one can appreciate them that way!”
“I can appreciate them that way.” he responded sternly.
“Yeah…but don’t you think Grandma and Grandpa would want people to actually be able to see this stuff? What’s the point in keeping it hidden in storage?”
“You can have it when I’m gone.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy it while your alive? I mean…you’ve got to admit those black plates grandpa picked out would be perfect in my house.”
“There’s other kids in this family besides you, Katrina.” Dad reminded me. “I want your brothers and sisters to be able to look through all of this, too.”
“Come on, Dad!” I whined impatiently, “I’m literally asking to take two things out of the forty items you have in this box. Two things. There will be plenty of stuff for the other kids. Plus…none of them even have a house to hang any of this up in.”
“Katrina,” Mark grumbled, “The answer is no.”
It was as if I had been transported back to my fourteen year old self. I dramatically sulked upstairs to my bedroom, where I could be surrounded of the comforts of my adolescence. (Namely Dixie Chicks posters and lots of expired tubes of Wet n’ Wild lipstick.)
Ten minutes later, Dad had a change of heart. While he still didn’t want me to take any items from “the box” home, there were some other goodies from Norway in the china closet downstairs he thought I might be interested in.
“See these Viking ships?” Dad asked while pointing to a collection of intricately carved pewter replicas.
“Yeah. Those have been in there since I was a little kid. Jeez, Dad…how many of those do you have?”
There had to be at least two-dozen of them…as if a fleet of miniature vikings were prepared to attack Mom’s good Christmas china.
“Do you know what they’re used for?” he asked. I shook my head no. I suppose I’d never really thought about it.
He pulled a miniature spoon out of one of the ships. “They’re salt cellars. You keep them on the table and use this spoon to serve the salt.”
My eyes lit up. Scott and I have been keeping sea salt in a miniature cup for years, simply using our unwashed hands to sprinkle it over various meals and recipes. The tiny serving spoon would be so much more sanitary! And let’s be real — salt out of a pewter Viking ship is straight up gangster.
I explained all of this to Mark, asking if I could pretty-please-with-cherries-on-top bring one back to ‘Sota.
“I suppose,” he finally agreed, “But not this one. Let me find a better one.”
After a few minutes of digging, Dad’s hand emerged from the china cabinet holding the most beautiful salt cellar of all. He slowly passed it to me, asking that I be extremely careful when packing it. I could tell he was having a difficult time letting go.
“Thanks, Dad. I promise to take really good care of it. I’ll even…what the….are those teeth inside of it?!?!?!” Peering inside the hull revealed several white shards that were cracked, brown and covered in what appeared to be dried blood.
“Those are my teeth, ” Dad grinned with pride, “My wisdom teeth.”
Further questioning revealed they’d been stored in there since the 1960s*.
Thank heaven pewter can stand up to the sanitizing powers of hot, soapy water. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the visual trauma of gazing upon 40-year-old, bloody wisdom teeth. Still…a girl’s gotta take what she can get.
Scott’s been eating salt out of this thing for the past four days. (I’ve yet to make him aware of it’s previous contents.)
*I feel like this explains why I’m…you know…the way that I am.