A few weeks ago, I stopped by and had a visit with my only living aunt. A wonderful lady, in her 90s, she still lives by herself in the same home she’s had for over half a century, even though she has had to admit that she doesn’t feel up to putting out as big of a garden as she has in past years.
While my wife and I visited with her that afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that she was drinking ice water from a very familiar looking glass. As I studied it, I realized that it was identical to the drinking glasses that my own mother had set before our family for…well…as long as she lived. And then, I remembered the origin of the pretty glassware.
My grandmother dipped snuff. Not the coarse, flavored, aromatic kind that you find at the checkout counter of every convenience store in the world, but the powder-textured variety that may not even be available anymore. It stunk to high heaven, but Mama Reed (that was her name to scores of grandchildren and great-grandchildren), unless she was eating, always had a dip in her mouth and an old coffee can by her side to serve as a spittoon. She also wore a full-length apron every day of her life, that most always had a drip or two of snuff-stains in a straight line from her chin. As loving a grandmother as she was, none of us grandchildren ever fought to sit on her lap for fear of getting in the pathway between her mouth and the coffee can.
But, all those decades of dipping snuff did yield hundreds of identically beautiful, eight-ounce glasses (that’s what the snuff was packaged in) that were presented to each of her children when they married and moved away. Mama Reed also gave each of her children matching plates, saucers, and cups that had been collected as freebies inside hundreds of boxes of dry oatmeal over the years, but the drinking glasses that once served as snuff containers are what I remember most about the tableware of my youth.
Not only did the glasses serve as a receptacle for milk, water and the occasional treat of lemonade, but my mother also used the upside-down rim of the glass to precisely cut the dough that would become delicious cookies or scrumptious, home-made biscuits which were always present in her cupboard.
As Judy and I returned home, from the visit with my Aunt Avis, I told her the story about the source of all the drinking glasses that my mother had, and the flood of memories that rushed through my mind from seeing the single glass at my aunt’s home. She, too, remembered the unusual glasses that had always been present at mom’s house, but had no idea they had originated as packaging for my grandmother’s snuff.
“That’s why your cookies are always too big and your biscuits too small,” I chided.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s not your fault,” I replied, “You just don’t have any snuff glasses to cut the dough to the exact, right size.”


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