For a few years in my early twenties, my father gave me a piece of copper cookware every once in a while. Cooking was one of the ways we managed to connect, and the pieces were beautiful. And they were substantial. Weighty. As long as I took good care of them, they would last forever. I imagined I was building a permanent collection. I was building my life.
Over time, copper develops spots, and if you scrub it with regular soap and a sponge, it scratches quite easily. Instead, you have to use special cleaners and stay diligent about keeping up with them. My wife and I have occasionally fallen behind in this task, especially when we run out of the cleaner, which never rises quickly back to the top of the shopping list. After only a use or two, the pots begin to turn a mottled, and then even dingy, brown and stop reflecting the light of the room.
Eventually, though, some space opens in the time we have after a meal, and we get back on the bandwagon and clean the pots. But lately I’ve begun to wonder why we do it. Yes, they’re beautiful. And they might just last forever, or least for hundreds of years. But I’m not going to.
I do keep washing. There is something quite pleasing about the task itself, in the possibility of absorption in the water, the shine of the metal, the repetitive circular motion. Each time, though, what I hold in my hands feels a bit more like just a pot.