On my kitchen counter is a stone bowl on a stem–a fruit and vegetable compote that once belonged to my mother, and her mother before her. In it, I keep bananas and tomatoes, same as my mother did.
Some of the tomatoes are still green when I put them in the bowl, but that’s okay because the bananas have a way of ripening them. My mother likened it to friendship and love. “One ripens first and then helps the other along.”
And like her, I cannot waste the uneaten bananas. I simply cannot bring myself to discard a banana only because it’s past its prime for peeling and eating. I have to make something else out of it. Banana nut bread, muffins, cake—something!
Naturally, my children always liked this family quirk, when an aging fruit they might have discarded is changed into something fresh, new–and edible.
A couple of days ago, I noticed three spotted bananas snuggled against my home-grown, reddening tomatoes. I took the bananas and mashed them. I added flour, sugar, milk, egg, baking powder and pecans.
When I took the loaf from the oven, I set it beside the stone compote where the bananas had once influenced the green tomatoes to turn red. It smelled so good. It looked so good. And in half an hour, it would probably be eaten and gone.
There is nothing that’s useless, or past its prime. Everything holds the potential of something new within it. Something we can pass on to those we love.
When she died, my mother’s closets and drawers were filled with “stuff.” She saw value in it. Value in an old, torn school picture. Value in a hand-drawn birthday card, or a baby shoe, or a high school scrap book. Value in a postcard, and a menu from the old Dixie Sherman Hotel in Panama City, FL where she and my father spent their wedding night before he left for the Pacific in WWII.
But does all that “stuff” get transformed into something new? How is it further ripened?
All those timeworn things are now in my closets and drawers, in my trunks and cabinets, even shoved under my beds. Those old keepsakes now pass memory to me.
They create something new in me, not about a past reality, but a fresh way of seeing reality in the present and the future. And so, as a mother and grandmother, I pass it down.
This is in the essence of every human being, that he is capable of passing down intelligence, imagination, and emotion to other human beings. A reminder though—the passing can be for better, or worse.
Often, we’re unaware of this, but we should give it attention because it’s how we can spur the better parts of our culture and beliefs to our children and their children. Hopefully the legacy we pass on is bound up in love.