My sister's coffee can

My nephew came to visit recently and brought my sister’s coffee can. This one happens to be a 2 pound Maxwell House Lite can, and it was the latest in a long line of similar cans dating back to when she was a little girl. It has two holes punched on opposite sides near the top rim, through which is strung a piece of twine for hanging the can around your neck, leaving both hands free. The inside is stained with the oxidized juice from thousands of blueberries that occupied the can over many years.

This was the preferred method for picking blueberries in my family: one hand to lift up branches to expose the fruit hiding underneath, and the other for picking said fruit to place in the waiting coffee can. No fancy pickers for our family; no plastic bags or Tupperware containers. I remember once when my sister was climbing over a log in Juneau and fell over backwards. My mother shouted “The berries!”, and my sister’s hand slowly appeared above the bushes holding the can as she struggled to stand up again, a smile on her face.

She was a purest: only blueberries went in the can. None of the abundant crowberries or cranberries. As soon as we got home, she would make a pie. Buttery, flaky crust and the tartness of the wild berries softened with sugar and cinnamon. It’s a food memory that will always be in my mind.

My sister died a couple of years ago at the age of 76. The only thing of hers that I wanted was that coffee can, as it evoked her like nothing else. It now sits in a place of honor on one of our bookshelves, more elegant and beautiful than any piece of art that we own. I smile whenever I look at it, while my heart breaks with the memory of her untimely passing.


Agreed, beautiful.

When my mother died, 12 years ago now, the only thing of hers that I wanted was the ceramic cooking spoon rest that I had made for her in second grade, and that she had continued to use for more than 70 years. It’s now too special for us to use, and it has pride of place on a shelf in the bedroom.

Completely understood.



I have an iron frog that sits on my fireplace hearth. He’s not pretty, exceptional or unusual save for the fact that my grandfather, who worked at an iron works when he first came to America, made it for my grandmother as a weight to hold the milk money for the milkman to pick up when he made a delivery.

Such frogs were common They were made and sold commerically, but my grandparents had very little money, so this frog was made of scrap iron in a mold my grandfather made himself. My frog isn’t smooth and professional in appearance, he looks very much the homemade artifact. And his years of sitting on my grandparents’ front porch step have left him weathered and pitted. But it is what he represents that makes him beautiful. In my family, home is where the frog is. My older son knows that someday the frog will sit on his hearth, too, and he will tell the story to his brand new son eventually when it comes time for the frog to pass to yet another generation.

My only regret is that it is no longer safe to leave him on a front porch step where he truly belongs.

There is considerable power and beauty in the most ordinary of things that have been elevated by their connection to those we love.

Great memory.

Your sister’s coffee can what?

I’ll let myself out.

It was getting dusty in here until Kabong’s post showed up. Maybe print your OP small and tape it to the bottom of the can? Something my family does with sentimental things that would end up in the trash, by people not in the know, without their stories to tell.

May all your crusts be mushy and your fillings be made with corn starch.

what a cool story. I would rather have 100 rusty coffee cans with happy memories than one priceless painting with no sentimental value.
I love this! :slight_smile:

Nice :slight_smile:

I can understand the sentimental value of such things, but in my family, something like that coffee can would still be doing berry-picking duty, not just sitting idle as a decoration. We’re sentimental and utilitarian.

Blueberry season is still a couple of months away, and believe me, it will get some use.

A great memory. Thanks.

Chefguy, your OP is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt things I have seen on the Dope. Thank you for sharing that with us.

At our house when I was a kid, the coffee can of choice for berry picking was Folger’s. :smiley:

Thank you for sharing that. It’s beautiful.

Thanks, Chefguy.

My spouse and I are going back to Sitka, where he was born and raised. I will meet his venerable sisters (maybe – if they decide to show up for the family reunion) and his classmates from high school. (Spouse is 72.)

I would like to try salmonberries and cloudberries and whatever else there may be.

We’re in Maine now. The wild blueberries here are YUM !!!

The trip is a month away. Seeyasoon. In thoughts, anyway.


My parents are of an age now where we’ve had ‘the talk’ about what we’ll do with their things after they’re gone. Mom even put a book together of pictures of their furniture and things so my sisters and I could choose what we’d like to keep, etc. Without question I was always the sentimental one, the one that associated many of the lesser value items with old, special memories that made that thing an irreplaceable treasure. Even now guests might walk into my library and see quaint, interesting but often times common items, while I see family memories from siblings to great-grandparents, something altogether different. That’s only going to magnify over time.

I completely see how a Maxwell House Lite can would be on the shelf. Nice.