The colorful bowls nest into each other in bright reds, yellows and blues. The pans are clean, with nonstick bottoms, still shiny and relatively new. There are spices I’ve never used before.

This is what happens when your daughter is moving far away, and you’ve had the same pots and pans for at least 20 years, if not longer. Your daughter gifts you her “like new” stuff. I call it reverse nesting.

My daughter has been busy cleaning out her apartment, which is just a few miles from my home. She is preparing to get married and move to England. All new things await her there, where she will make her own nest with her British husband.

I’ll still be here, in the house she was raised in, and if not for her generosity, would still be using my old, messed-up, burned cookware. I’ve never found the time or the money to justify updating my kitchen equipment, and I haven’t cared that much. With a tight budget, my husband and I have opted to invest in our girls over the years, for things such as camp, SAT prep classes and college applications.

All the while, I was using my same kitchen stuff, aware of how old and awful it was getting. I kept telling myself I needed to stop being so cheap and buy new things. It’s not hard to find an inexpensive set of pots and pans, but stubbornly, oh so stubbornly, I didn’t do it.

Now, suddenly, I’m traveling in reverse. When my daughter moved into her apartment to attend graduate school two years ago, she needed new everything. She bought some stuff and received some as gifts, and we gave her some things, too. We bought her a new iron and ironing board, which she just gave back to us. The timing is perfect; we’ve had the same iron and board for years, and neither is in tiptop shape.

It was weird how my daughter texted me from her apartment, showing me pictures of the things she could bring me — the bowls, of course (my favorite because they are so bright and cheerful), and baking pans of different shapes and sizes, which I will definitely use, because like my daughter, I enjoy baking. She even brought me all the staples in her kitchen cabinets, so now I have plenty of brown sugar to last a good long while. (Note to self: Find recipes that call for brown sugar to use it before it goes bad.)

This would all be great, except it also means she is moving far away. She and her husband will live in England, with new kitchen supplies from their gift registry. Their first kitchen will have shiny pots and pans and silverware and bowls and plates.

She will start her new life about as unencumbered as you can get — she will carry just two suitcases full of clothes to England and come back for some more in November, when she visits for Thanksgiving.

As she starts her new life, kitchen and otherwise, I will be the same as I am now — almost 28 years married, with very few new things, and warm memories of everything that was, as well as hope for all that is still to be.

I will use her kitchen gear and sometimes feel sad. Those items will remind me of the daughter I will miss so much. They will be a symbol of what’s changed. But the quality of my kitchenware will be better than what I have now — so I’ll smile, too, as I mix cake and brownie batter in the bowls or use them for a backyard barbecue, filling them with pasta salad or potatoes. They are mine now.

We reversed how it usually is — mother giving daughter things to fill her first kitchen upon her marriage, helping her create a household that will last a lifetime, things the daughter will use every day while thinking of her mother. Instead, my daughter brought me slightly and gently used kitchen supplies that I can use for many years to come, thinking of her as I use them.

I hope she still will think of me, too, as she opens her shiny new cookware and bakeware, and makes all her favorite recipes. I hope she will smile as she mixes some of our favorites — the challah bread we both like, the cheery summer pasta salad with bright tomatoes and corn that involves a lot of chopping.

Maybe we’ll be in our kitchens at the same time, doing the same thing. Maybe we’ll be on FaceTime while we do it. Or maybe we’ll just text each other later about it — two kitchens, two countries, two new sets of kitchen equipment, one mother and one daughter.

Judy Mollen Walters is the author of “The Natural Order of Things,” as well as six other novels. Find her online at

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