I love how seeing an object from long ago brings back a flood of memories. And although Proust explored this idea better than anyone else in Remembrance of Things Past aka In Search of Lost Time, in which the narrator was able to bring a huge novel-ful of past memories into the present as he bit into a madeline, we all have our turkey gravy boat moments.
I remember how we dressed up in nice clothes to come to the table on Thanksgiving, and we used the good china (the Dolly Madison pattern, with a pink rose in the middle) and the real silver, so elegant, and once I was a teenager, the real dangerously-thin crystal. I remember the sound of the electric knife my father used to cut up the bird and the dainty "clink" when my mother placed her coffee cup in its saucer. I remember the time my grandmother came to eat Thanksgiving dinner with us (she lived far away) and how sadly quiet that meal was. I remember how the group got smaller when my brother left home and then much larger when spouses and grandchildren began to appear. The Dolly Madison china was replaced by styrofoam plates and Flintstone jelly glasses for a while. I remember those Brown N Serve rolls that for some reason always reminded me of the actor William Frawley (aka Fred Mertz). I remember how my sister in law and I would do the dishes and talk about stuff we didn't want to talk about in front of other family. I remember how I didn't really understand the whole Thanksgiving holiday thing because we didn't go to church on Thanksgiving (the church I grew up in only met on Sundays) and yet it seemed that we ought to be giving thanks in a religious way and not just as an isolated family eating too much dressing and pecan pie way. (I actually don't really get into any holidays that aren't religious holidays - I am pretty lukewarm about the Fourth of July and I am an absolute curmudgeon about New Year's. Although I like Valentine's Day because of the chocolate.) I remember how we stopped having Thanksgiving when it seemed a burden on my mother.
I now have the Dolly Madison china and the silver flatware in my china cabinet. They don't look the same in my house, and I haven't have that many occasions to use them in the last year or so, but I treasure them. Each piece is loaded with a memory and sentiment - sadness, happiness, confusion, and a host of other emotions and stories from years' worth of use and cleaning and putting away. But it's really the memories that I'm trying to hold on to, to bring back to mind, to replay in a way that might shed light on my various family members or my own childhood or my ideas about what family actually is. As well as my ideas about what Thanksgiving is. And where it ought to be celebrated, and how often, and with whom.
For a long time, it was the objects I wanted. Now that I have many of those items, it's the memories that I want to turn over and re-examine and hold oh-so-carefully in my cradled hands. So it's the memories I hold dear now, and all the objects are just gravy.