I’m not sentimental about stuff. There is a box up on a shelf in my closet that has my great-great grandfather John Turner’s powder measure in it. He used it in the Civil War; it’s made from the breast bone of a turkey. I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I own from that side of my family, but you know what? If it got lost or stolen I wouldn’t really care because it’s just a thing.
Bikes are the same. I owned bikes that are what you’d now call “classics,” but if I still owned any of them all I’d ever call them is clutter. Good fuggin’ riddance.
Last week my wife bought a new rice cooker. Here is a picture of the old one, beat to shit.
We bought this Zojirushi rice cooker in June 2000, when we moved back to the United States from Utsunomiya. I calculated that it has cooked over five thousand pots of rice since then, and it has never hiccoughed, much less needed repair. At the time it cost $200, which in today’s dollars is about $45,000,000, adjusting for inflation and poor arithmetical skills.
My sentimental rating for this thing is zero. The front cover has peeled off from being so close to the stove for so many years, and it is covered with more battle scars than an alpha male bull elephant seal. Since it still works fine, we’re handing it off to our youngest, who has left the dorms and signed up for apartment living in his second year of college.
Like I said, no sentimentality for that old thing. Some big corporation made it, I worked to pay for it, it did what it was supposed to do, and now it’s going off to Santa Barbara to do it some more. Most people would love to retire to Santa Barbara anyway.
But even though I’m not sentimental, not even a little, about the contraption that fed us and nourished us and did its job without interruption or complaint for close to twenty years, when you think about it, that old rice cooker marked a lot of time with our family.
When we brought it home from the Asahi Japanese Market in Austin, my youngest son was two. His brother, seven. His sister, eleven. He’s now a sophomore in college and I’m a grandfather. Time didn’t fly, it vanished. These wrinkles on my hands are tree rings, they mark the truth and can’t be obscured.
That rice cooker saw a lot of trials and a lot of tribulations. Terrible family altercations, family illness, family death. Friend troubles, school troubles, work troubles, life troubles. That rice cooker saw paychecks cashed with so little to go around that working poor would have seemed like an upgrade. Through the worst times, though, it coughed up a daily diet of hot steamed rice, nourishing food that left us with full bellies no matter how dire things otherwise might have seemed.
That rice cooker saw a lot of happiness, too. Reconciliations, mended friendships, excitement and adventure, new jobs, California, graduations, nuptials, and the crowning gift of life, babies. Whether we were making up or celebrating a milestone, that old rice cooker kept plugging away, pumping out the mainstay of every meal we ate together as a family for almost twenty years.
Those meals we ate together as a family, sometimes mad, usually happy, often hilarious, always filled with commentary about the things the day had brought, those meals were the glue that bound us, and they bound us in a way that frozen food and dinners out and ready-to-eat Trader Joe’s fare never could have. Whether we argued or whether we laughed, we did it over home cooked food whose backstop was invariably steamed white rice.
And if I’m so damned unsentimental about that old home appliance, maybe you can tell me why I’m so sad to see it go.