My Hamilton Beach hand-mixer is not long for this world. Then again, it is almost 24 years old. It has outlasted cars and hair dryers, a set of Revereware, several computers, bicycles, my first Cuisinart. And I’m a good enough cook, or at least dutiful enough and extravagant enough, to reward myself with one of those lovely KitchenAid mixers. So why do I cling to this Hamilton Beach, whose cord has a tenuous connection to the mixer at best, which rattles and hums ominously?
Simple: It was a college graduation gift from my Great-Aunt Madeline. So every time I use it, I think of Aunt Madeline. Whom I did not know as well as I would have liked. She lived in Augusta, Ga. Her name was inspired by the survivor list of the Titanic and it was given to my mother in turn and then to me, as a middle name.
If anything serves better than quotidian things and routines to keep the dead in our thoughts, I have yet to discover them. My grandmother, Mary Moore Mabry, older sister of Madeline, died in 1979, and because her childhood locket is so fragile, I seldom wear it. Instead, I am most apt to think of her when John Wayne Gacy is mentioned (his arrest was prominent on the radio as my family headed to Georgia for her final days); or when I pull out my mother’s single volume of Shakespeare, which I studied on that trip; or, finally, when I go to Steak & Shake, for my sister and I visited one close to the hospital.
I think of Bob Colesberry, however, whenever I order a hand-roll (for Bob preferred these to regular sushi rolls), ride Amtrak (long story) or go to certain restaurants. Since I eat sushi at least once a week, I am reminded of Bob at least that frequently.
In the midst of the unfathomable news of the tsunami, many people I knew felt slightly sheepish for focusing on the more ordinary death of Jerry Orbach. (“More ordinary” in the sense that it came from a diagnosed illness and was not, therefore, completely unexpected.) But this is how we process things; it’s why the media continues to tell individual stories about the tens of thousands killed. We can focus on the one mother who saw her child swept out to the sea, or the young English girl credited with saving an entire beach of people; we can’t begin to comprehend a death toll above 123,000, a number larger than the population of the city where I began my reporting career.
Anyway, I think I’ll keep my hand-mixer as long as I can.