The Treasured Tea Towel

I have been working on downsizing as part of my New Year’s Resolutions.  What that means is that I have been cleaning out various drawers, cabinets, and closets.  I’m not doing that in any particular order – which would make sense.  Rather I pick a drawer or cabinet or closet every few days and clean it out.

I have slowly but surely been building a pile of stuff to donate or sell.  A lot of that stuff is now sitting on my dining room table.

One of the first things dear, sweet hubby and I did was to go through all of the old electronics and cell phones.  I found an electronics recycler and DSH spent an hour taking components apart.  We figured with the return of a monitor, we would break even.  Much to our surprise, we actually made $58.10!  By returning our old electronics and cell phones.  Stuff that was gathering dust and taking up space in our basement.  Cha-ching.

Last week, I cleaned out our bathroom cabinets because, after more than year, DSH had finally completed refinishing the cabinets.  Check that homeowner project off the New Year’s Resolution and honey-do list!  I now have a pile of old gold jewelry.  Maybe I can make a few dollars selling it to a gold buyer!

While DSH worked on a mysterious plumbing leak under my kitchen sink, I cleaned out my kitchen towel drawers.  It was there that I discovered another old treasure.

A tea towel.  A treasured tea towel.

Here is what is written on this tea towel:

If I Am Right Oh Teach My Heart
Still In The Right To Stay
If I Am Wrong Thy Grace Impart
To Find The Better Way

Words to live by for sure.  I received this tea towel as a gift from a woman I worked with in the early 1980s.  It hung on a dowel in my kitchen for many years.

I graduated from college in 1979.  At the time, I lived in Chicago, but shortly after I graduated I moved to Boston.  My years in these two cities had a profound impact on me.  You see, I moved away from home in a much smaller city after living in a suburb that was filled with families who all pretty much looked alike and acted alike and lived alike.

My move to Chicago exposed me to new foods, new people, new cultures.  My move to Boston had an even more significant impact on my exposure to new things.  As a young and naive 23-year old woman from the Midwest, I started my career in health care and was soon managing the purchasing department of a medical supply distributor.

I was managing people who were old enough to be my parents.  I was managing someone who was black and someone who was gay.  And back then, those weren’t the words used to describe these people.  Baptism by fire.

I loved how these early experiences in my life have shaped me as a person.  I believe that they made me a better person.  A more tolerant person.  A more understanding person.

It also makes me appreciate the fact that my children didn’t have to grow up and move away from home to learn about people of different races and ethnicities and cultures and sexual orientations.

One of the people that I worked with was a woman named Inga.  She was a German woman.  She was born and raised in Germany and had met an American G.I.  She fell in love, married, and moved across the ocean to a new country at about the same age as I was when we met.

Inga worked in Accounting, and I would have to meet with her to reconcile purchases and beg for payments to be released so we could complete orders for customers.  I loved meeting with Inga because I learned so much from her.  Not just about accounting, but about life.

I looked up to her as an older and wiser woman.

She was probably in her early 40s at the time.

Inga and her husband had one daughter.  A daughter who had leukemia when she was 16.  Inga was a happy woman, but from the stories of her life I knew that she had lived a very hard life.  Her life revolved around her husband and her daughter.  A daughter who almost died.

It was Inga who had given me the tea towel.  I think about her every time that I see it.  And I never use it because I don’t want it to get stained or get holes or wear out.  It is a treasure to me.  A treasure that represents all that I learned from Inga.  About accounting.  About being a good wife and mother.  About German cooking.

Inga’s Sauerbraten recipe.

You see I also have some of Inga’s recipes in my recipe box.  Recipes written in her curious, European hand writing and her broken English style.

Some things you have are treasures that aren’t worth money.  But the memories are priceless.

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