One in a collection of essays celebrating things we love.


The family trivet. (Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post)

I have an incurable case of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t binge-watch “Full House” and “Gilmore Girls” reboots or look back through rosy glasses at the good old days. Instead, my thoughts turn back to a time and place that can never again exist: my childhood on a family farm in eastern Washington state. The object that captures my yearning? A woven straw trivet my mom bought at a dollar store in the 1970s.

The trivet, by far the most retro-fab thing I own, is swirly and groovy and accented with a perfect shade of ’70s burnt sienna. People on Etsy are all about these trivets. (I think this love also explains my admiration of faded velvet goldenrod upholstery and ABBA.) It reminds me of the kitchen I grew up in, watching my mom and sister cook while I played on the slightly age-bubbled vinyl flooring. The trivet exists in the same space as my mom’s Portuguese Rooster of Barcelos figurine and my dad’s model John Deere tractors lining various trinket shelves near the kitchen. It brings back the smell of late-night bowls of popcorn and the taste of peas freshly picked from the field lining the back yard.

The farmhouse isn’t there anymore. We moved to Germany when I was in middle school, and the people who bought that part of the land eventually tore down the house and its perimeter of towering trees so that it wouldn’t interfere with the center pivot irrigation system. It made sense; the house blocked the system’s path, and it wasn’t in great shape, anyway. I was so happy to explore my new surroundings that the destruction didn’t bother me until I visited the empty lot years later.

The trivet, though, is a survivor. It remained through several rounds of moves to multiple houses in Germany and one to Puerto Rico. (If you have moved many times, you know that what you keep must be important.) A little over a year ago, near the end of a visit to my parents’ then-home in Puerto Rico, I spotted the familiar orange-brown-tan weave and casually commented how much I loved it.

“Take it,” my mom said instantly, with a hint of bemusement. I was shocked that she could be so generous — didn’t she know how cute and vintage-chic this thing is? — but I was already stroking its edges and clutching it tightly.

Once I returned home, I proudly pulled the trivet out of my bag and gave it a prominent spot on the counter, so it will always know how important it is. Because loving an object so trivial isn’t shallow; this is an old love, full of memories from a time and place mostly happy, but ultimately gone. And now that it’s in my kitchen, it will remind me of one more thing: generosity, without hesitation.