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The Coffee Scoop

My sister, Cindy, and I live on opposite ends of the country and rarely see each other.

When my mother died in the Autumn of 2001, we each packed our bags and headed to Mom’s condo in Arizona. There we spent a week together to arrange and hold Mom’s memorial and to empty the place out.

We needed to divide up and distribute all of Mom’s belongings, prepare piles of items for charity pick up, and pack up and clean the condo so it would be ready for our Dad to sell. All within just one week. The job wasn’t as huge as it sounds: Mom had only moved to the condo just a little more than a month before she died.

We kids for years had been putting our names on the backs of the things we wanted… something that had started in the 1970s, probably as a joke, but ended up being a pragmatic way to handle things. Mom had also left a short page of notes on who should get what, so in the very few cases where the names on things differed with Mom’s notes, her notes were the final ruling: Mom got the last word.


As we worked, Cindy and I were in perfect agreement. There are countless stories about the dividing up of a parent’s belongings causing bitter disputes between siblings, but Cindy and I never had a single disagreement… Except the coffee scoop.

Mom had a perfect coffee scoop, a level measure that was the just-right “slightly more than a standard measure” amount for a perfect pot of coffee. And we both wanted it.

Mom’s notes said I should get the piano, but I didn’t really want it — which was great, because Cindy wanted it. Mom’s notes said Cindy should get the antique writing desk, and while I wanted it, I had to agree that Cindy’s was a much more appropriate home for it. We were in complete agreement about it all. Everything but that damn coffee scoop!

Each time we talked about it we disagreed and neither of us wanted to give in. We knew this was ridiculous, so we just left it on the counter of the kitchen, leaving it for the next day and moving on to the millions of other things we needed to get done that week.


When we finished the first few rounds of dividing things up to send to every child, grandchild, niece, and nephew, we still had quite a lot of stuff to go. Mom was a consummate crafter, and her home was chock full of homemade teddy bears, dolls, and holiday decorations.

She also had a sizeable collection of baskets, which may be what gave us the ultimate idea.

We called all the people in Mom’s address book we knew or whose names we recognized from past conversations, inviting them to come over to a small gathering at Mom’s place in a few days. When the day came, we cleaned everything up, arranged the many, many homemade things all around the living room, and piled all the baskets in the entry way. A few store-bought cookie and veggie-dip trays and a few pots of coffee later, and the preparations were complete for our little party.

When guests arrived, we invited them to select a basket and fill it with whatever they would like to bring home. We had to convince people it was okay, and it was a delight for Cindy and me to see Mom’s work so appreciated. It was a wonderful send-off, with Mom’s friends choosing the things they wanted most, then snacking and drinking coffee as they chatted about their good friend. Mom would have loved it.

I swear, my sister and I should get Genius badges for that party idea!


At the end of the week, having had a church memorial that Mom would have loved followed by a family gathering at her home, we were all done. The charity loot was neatly piled in the carport for pickup, countless packages had been mailed to family and distant friends, and a shipper had picked up the piano and furniture that Cindy and I were shipping to our homes. It had been a very positive week for both of us, and Mom would have been very pleased.

And when I got home, completely exhausted, I realized that we’d both forgotten about the coffee scoop. We had left it on the kitchen counter.

Apparently we’d decided that since we both wanted it, neither of us should have it. I think Mom would have approved of our accidental solution.

In memory of Joyce Kathleen Bonneville Mattson