By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder
Dan and I are both in transit this week. Dan is setting up a new home in Portland, Ore., where his wife will begin another temporary assignment as a traveling speech therapist and I’m in Miami where I’m helping my daughter create a new home from scratch after being accepted two weeks ago from a wait list into the physical therapy program of her dreams – with the provision that she be ready to start class five days later. If you look at a map of the U.S. and put one finger on Miami, Fla., and the other on Ferndale, Wash., – well, you’ll see that creates quite the adventure.
My uncle, Thomas Walsh, is one of those we will be remembering this Memorial Day. He was killed in Vietnam in September 1966 when the plane he was piloting was shot down. He had just arrived in Vietnam a month or so before. He was my mom’s older brother and her only sibling. In addition to my mom and her family, my Uncle Tom left behind four of my cousins and my aunt, who was pregnant with my fifth cousin. My uncle was 27.
I was 2 ½ when died and have no real memory of him. But I’ve heard lots of stories, of course, and seen lots of photos. He loved baseball and golf. He was a great big brother to my mom growing up in Bellingham, Washington.
Stories are important and photos are great, but there is one thing in particular that helps me regularly remember my uncle (and also his mom and dad, my grandparents, who are also now both gone): their pasta pot.
They had a metal pot – which includes a fitted inner strainer – made specifically for cooking pasta. My mom tells me it was in their family kitchen for as far back as she can remember. My grandma used it pretty much every week, my mom says, to prepare dinner for my grandpa, her and her brother. It’s nothing fancy and — if you saw it in garage sale you’d probably feel taken if you didn’t barter the price down to less than a couple bucks. After my grandma quit cooking, I received the pot. I’ve now had it for well over a decade and — like my grandma — I’ve used it almost once a week to create meals for my family. And while I certainly don’t get all mushy every time I pull it out (unlike my pasta sometimes when I get distracted), I love that banged up pot and the memories that it holds.
My grandma filled that pot and my uncle washed and my mom dried that pot — it was pre-dishswasher days — over and over and over. I’m sure they weren’t thinking they were holding a family heirloom at the time, they were just scrubbing a dirty pot. Nevertheless, that’s what it is today. It is an irreplaceable piece of our family’s history that will one day be passed on — and used (because it really works well) — by my daughters. Stories are wonderful and photos are great. But it’s also hard to beat holding that one very used pasta pot.
Happy Memorial Day.