- Karen Terhune Duncan
I do love sterling silver. The way it feels, the shine (when it’s polished), the sheer decadence of it. One of my favorite rituals growing up was to help set the table for one of my mothers legendary parties. My mother, while an outstanding cook, was a champion at table scapes. She’d create some fabulous centerpiece resplendent of whatever the theme was. Plate upon plate was layered at each seating along with a freshly ironed linen napkin, a hand written place card and always, always her sterling silver flatware, Gorham Strasbourg.
It was kept in a heavy mahogany box lined in velvety cloth. I knew where each fork, spoon and butter knife was housed. And I’d carefully place each, exactly as she instructed.
Near the end of her life, she wanted me to go find the box, which I did. At that point in her aging and frail life she’d not used it in years, but she wanted to look at it again, with me. I brought the heavy box to the footstool near her arm chair. And for the first time I noticed two empty screw holes drilled into the top of the box.
“What are these for,” I asked.
She rubbed her weathered hands across the holes. “It used to have a brass plaque, with an initial.” I'd never noticed.
“That’s easy to replace,” I said, but she shook her head. She wanted to tell me something. Something I never knew.
“I was engaged before your father,” she admitted with a small sigh. “He broke the engagement and nearly broke my heart.” She was still rubbing the screw holes. “We had already received many gifts and one of them was this box. The plaque had a B on it. That was for his name.“ She explained that after the break up she returned all the gifts, all the flatware she’d received (a different pattern), all with the exception of this box. “They wouldn’t take it back because of the plaque. I kept it and after I was engaged to your father I chose a new pattern and that’s what is here now.” She patted the box with finality.
I was stunned. I wanted to ask who he was and more about that time in her life. But I could tell she did not want to talk about it any more. She opened the box and took out a spoon. “I like this pattern so much better than the other one.” She put it back in the box and closed the lid. “Sometimes your best choice is your second.”
Missing my parents is just part of my life. They were married 62 years. The box and all it’s lovely contents are now mine and I cherish every piece. I use it often, which seems to be the practice of some of my Savannah friends. Many of us have decided to just enjoy the good stuff we have!
Last night, at a party, I had an Old Fashioned cocktail, which was my mother’s all time favorite. The smell of it brought her right back, sitting next to me sipping away. This silverware represents how special my mother was and having it gives me pure joy.
My mother, Christmas Eve, 1967.
An Old Fashioned was her favorite cocktail.
Strasbourg by Gorham was patented 1897. Inspired by the Louis XV period, this style of ornamentation is characterized by curves of reversed scrolls, a glossy finish and plume design. It continues to be one of the most popular patterns for Gorham.