“Trust—Etched in Glass,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 41
I picked up the gift for my granddaughter and measured it against the colorful Christmas wrapping paper lying on the table before me. As I cut the paper to fit, I wondered if my granddaughter would enjoy the gift as much as I had enjoyed choosing it for her. I folded and taped the paper in place and added a gold-colored ribbon.
I paused in my gift wrapping and stared out the window, where clouds were moving in. The temperature was dropping, and it might snow by morning. My mind turned to the many gifts I’d received over the years. The value of some gifts can never really be measured, I mused, recalling one, especially, that stood out from the rest. It came from my grandmother, and I smiled at the memory.
Grandma Satterfield believed that slender was synonymous with puny, and puny was about the most worrisome thing a person could be. So she just naturally took satisfaction in what she called her “robust” figure. Sometimes she would refer to herself as pleasingly plump. When she was 79, she could still touch her toes without bending her knees. She claimed that as long as a woman could do that, she wasn’t overweight—just robust.
Yes, Grandma was a remarkable woman. And that’s why it always seemed just a little bit strange to me about the cupboards. Grandma was meticulously clean about everything. She took pride in making the world a cleaner place, so it always surprised me whenever she said she couldn’t clean the cupboards without my help. She said it was because she was too robust to reach the far corners of the cupboards. She needed me, and that made me feel important.
I was skinny and agile in those days, so I could crawl under, behind, and inside places that were hard for her to reach. Then I’d climb onto the counter and hand things down to her from the upper shelves—all except one. At the very top of her cupboard was one shelf I was never allowed to touch. I would wait with a sense of anticipation for Grandma to finally turn to that shelf, and when she did, everything would change—even the air felt more reverent. She would climb up to that shelf herself and then, oh so carefully, lift down her life’s most precious treasure. “Do you see this bread platter, Patsie?” she would ask. Then she would show it to me as though I had never seen it before.
“This is the most precious thing I own. It’s all I have in this world that ever belonged to my dear mother.” Her eyes would mist over as she continued: “My mother died when I was just a young girl. She had a terrible tumor, and the doctor couldn’t save her. He tried all right. He gave her an operation right on our kitchen table. All us children gathered around Papa while he prayed for us. But she was taken home to live again with Heavenly Father, and, oh, I’ve missed her so.”
She would pause just a moment, and I could sense a thousand memories rushing through her mind. Then she would say, “See the temple here?” I would look at the oval platter made of transparent glass decorated with beautiful designs and the words “Give us this day our daily bread” etched across the top and bottom. In the center was a picture of the Salt Lake Temple.
“Do you know, this platter with that picture of the temple on it was made many years before the temple was even completed? My father, your great-grandpa, helped build that temple.” I believed it was surely a remarkable thing to have a picture of something before it even existed. And I was most certainly a privileged person to have had a great-grandpa who helped build something so wonderful.
“Here, you may touch it. See how smooth it feels. And look, there, at those scratches. That’s where the knife went through the bread. We used this platter every single Sunday when I was a girl. It sat right on the table with a nice loaf of bread on it.”
As she spoke, I could envision her as a young girl with a blue ribbon holding her hair back and all her brothers and sisters gathered around the table. I could almost hear their laughter and feel their love and see their mother cutting thin, neat slices of homemade bread.
Grandma’s voice would break into my thoughts: “Well, I’d best get this put away out of harm’s reach. It’d break my heart for sure if anything happened to this platter. It’s my very most precious possession!”
When the platter was safely tucked away, Grandma would say, “Land sakes, all that talk about bread makes a body’s mouth water. What say we rest a spell and have a piece of bread and jam?” She would cut thick, crusty slices of her own homemade bread and slather them with rich, creamy butter and homemade raspberry jam. While we ate, she would talk about how wonderful it was to go to the temple, how peaceful it was there, and how families could be bound together forever and ever.
The years passed. I grew from a girl to a teenager, then a busy young lady about town, and finally a wife and mother. When I was available, I still helped Grandma clean her cupboards, but responsibilities took me away. I lived in a different city—and I had cupboards of my own.
Grandma grew old, and after Grandfather had a stroke and went to a nursing home, she decided to sell their home and rent an apartment. My mother brought me the news during one of her visits. “Your grandma has taken all she plans to keep to the apartment,” Mother said. “She asked us children to come and look at what was left, then speak for what we want and take it with us.”
How difficult it must be, I thought, to dispose of all the possessions of a lifetime. I thought of the bread platter and wondered who got it. “Did you get anything from the house?” I asked.
“Yes, I got her fire screen and tools. They’re practically new—really nice.”
“Whatever for? You don’t have a fireplace.”
“But you do.” Mother seemed very pleased with her choice. “They will look lovely in your family room. And—oh, yes. I almost forgot. I got Grandpa’s old reading lamp.”
I was relieved to hear that I would have at least one meaningful heirloom to show my grandchildren.
Mother’s voice broke through my thoughts. “By the way, she sent you something.” With that she opened her suitcase and took out a bundle of old towels. “You can tell Grandma’s getting old,” she said. “Look at the strange way she wrapped this. It’s just some old thing out of her cupboard. You might not even want it.”
I could hardly breathe when she unfolded her package and drew forth a piece of glass tinted with age and etched with the old familiar markings. As she held it up to the light, the afternoon sun danced off the etched spires of a temple and into my overflowing heart. An ocean of love and gratitude washed over me, and I realized then that the platter had been meant for me.
That was many years ago, and Grandma Satterfield has been gone a long time now. I brought my gaze back to the gift I was wrapping for my own granddaughter and thought about the precious gift my grandma had left me—her love, her time, her wonderful example, and her deep testimony of the gospel. But that wasn’t all. She left me one more thing—her trust, trust that I would treasure her most precious possession. I thought about my own granddaughters. Who among them would grow to love Grandma’s platter? Perhaps, after Christmas, I ought to invite this granddaughter over. After all, it’s about time I cleaned my cupboards.
This article may furnish material for a family home evening discussion or for personal consideration. You might consider questions such as:
What heirlooms or other keepsakes from ancestors does our family have? Where did they come from?
How can a special keepsake handed down from generation to generation help turn the “heart of the children to their fathers”? (Mal. 4:6).
From a family perspective, what gives value to such items?