Sophie’s Bowl

My sister and I are still sorting through Mom’s things, and we will be doing so for some time. During the various moves that took place in Mom’s last years – from Kilian Boulevard to a patio home, from the patio home to assisted living, and from assisted living to memory care – Mom not only put a lot of stuff in two storage units, but she also sent boxes home with me and many more boxes home with my sister.

So Monday morning, I headed down to my sister’s home in Maple Grove to tackle two tasks: Decide what to do with first, Mom’s framed pictures and memorabilia and, second, her silver.

Along with art – a couple of watercolors by a local artist and some prints – and some smaller pieces like doilies her aunt had made, Mom had framed four beautiful certificates issued by a rural church near Lamberton, Minnesota, in the early 1900s. The certificates – all in German – noted the marriage of her parents and her own christening as well as the christening of her two sisters. Mom also had framed certificates noting Dad’s birth and confirmation, issued by churches in the east central portion of Minnesota where Dad grew up, and a couple of other similar events.

My sister thinks her children will take the watercolors, and we’ll put the doilies in the vast amount of stuff heading for an estate sale sometime in the next few months. As to the certificates, we’re going have a local photo shop remove them from the frames and get digital photos of them, and then I’ll contact historical societies in the various counties where the churches were located and see if the folks there are interested in the certificates. If they’re not, I guess we’re going to have to find a safe way to store them and figure out later what to do with them.

As to the silver, Mom had trays, bowls, and a coffee and tea service, a collection that seems typical for the middle class in the Upper Midwest during the middle years of the Twentieth Century. My sister already has enough silver she said, and I didn’t need it. She was going to check with her kids, but the likelihood was that most of the silver would go to the estate sale.

So we each chose one thing: She chose a silver bowl that she and her husband had given Mom and Dad for their silver anniversary in 1973. I pulled bowls from flannel bags and out of mounds of tissue paper, not entirely certain what I might want. As I looked at things, I found the notes my sister had made when the silver was put away in March; with each piece, she’d asked Mom where it came from: they came from cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

And one bowl came from Sophie Kashinsky.

The name caught my eye. In April of last year, one of Mom’s stories over lunch had introduced me to Sophie Kashinsky. I’d been asking Mom about the recipe for the punch that had been served at Mom’s 90th birthday celebration in 2011 and at my sister’s wedding in 1972. And Mom told me that the same punch had been served at my grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1965 and at Mom and Dad’s own wedding reception in 1948.

I wrote then:

So where had Grandma gotten the recipe? Well, Mom said, she’d gotten it from her sister Hilda.

And Hilda, Mom said slowly, thinking, had gotten it from her roommate at nursing school. The memories began to spool out, as they always do when Mom gets to talking about things that happened sixty or more years ago: Hilda was living in St. Paul, and the nursing school was at the long-gone Miller Hospital . . .

Hilda’s roommate was a nursing student, too, Mom said, visibly sifting the memories . . . . [Her name was] Sophie, Sophie . . . Kashinsky. Sophie came from Hutchinson, Minnesota, a town about sixty miles straight west of the Twin Cities, with a population back then of not quite 5,000 people.

Where did Sophie get the recipe? Mom didn’t know. She’d met Sophie a number of times, the last occasion being a potluck picnic at the Hutchinson home of the recently married Sophie during the summer of 1950. Mom recalled the year of the picnic because she was pregnant with my sister at the time, and she also recalled that she brought baked beans to the picnic. I have no doubt that if I’d asked her what color the table cloth was, she’d have remembered.

But there was no answer to the question: Where did Sophie get the punch recipe? I didn’t say this at lunch, but it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that Sophie got the recipe from her mother, and I’d like to think that it was served at a reception for Sophie’s graduation from Hutchinson High School sometime during the 1930s, or maybe even at the reception when Sophie’s own parents were married, most likely in the early 1900s.

So when I found inside one of Mom’s silver bowls a note with Sophie’s name on it, I looked a little more closely. The note indicated that in July 1948, when Mom and Dad got married, Sophie had been the supervisor. To me, that means that Sophie took care of the numerous details a wedding day brings: organizing the ushers, getting the flowers in the right places, coordinating transportation for the bridal party back to my grandparents’ farm after the wedding, getting the photographer in the right place, and so on and so on.

So there was no question which piece of silver I’d take from Mom’s collection. I took Sophie’s bowl.

Sophie's Silver Bowl

I’d like to know more than I do, but so far, I’m finding nothing online. On the note, my sister spelled Sophie’s last name as “Kashinski,” but I don’t know if Mom spelled it for her or if my sister made an assumption. In any case, I’ve searched using both “Sophie” and “Sophia” along with “Kashinsky,” “Kashinski,” “Kachinsky,” “Kachinski,” and “Kaczynski.” And I’ve done all of those using “Hutchinson” as an added term. I may be missing something in the results, but nothing seems to be out there for our Sophie. (Searching is complicated by the fact that one of the characters in the CBS comedy Two Broke Girls is named Sophie Kaczynski-Golishevsky, which many fans misspell as one of the other variants listed here.)

So what do we listen to as we think about Sophie and a wedding gift of a silver bowl? I decided quickly against anything from the soundtrack to Sophie’s Choice. I like some work by singer Sophie Zelmani, but my favorite, her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Most Of The Time,” isn’t on YouTube (and would likely be blocked anyway, I think). So I looked for things about silver.

And here is Susan Tedeschi and her cover of the Rolling Stones’ “You Got The Silver.” It’s from her 2005 album Hope and Desire.

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