In the new novel The Dutch House, Ann Patchett’s main characters are forced to evacuate their home with a stepmother imploring them to vacate immediately. Shocked by her pronouncement after their father’s sudden death, they grabbed a few essentials and fled.

One of the characters reflects: “The idiocy of what we took and what we left cannot be overstated. We packed up clothes and shoes I would outgrow in six months, and left behind the blanket at the foot of my bed my mother had pieced together out of her dresses. We took the books from my desk and left the pressed-glass butter dish in the kitchen that was, as far as we knew, the only thing that had made its way from that apartment in Brooklyn with our mother. I didn’t pick up a single thing of my father’s, though later I could think of a hundred things I wished I had…”

The butter dish resonated with me as I think of all the things in my home and my parents’ former home that have meaning but wouldn’t likely be at the top of the “grab and go” list. I’m sure those fleeing the hurricanes, war or fires don’t grab the butter dish but later would have treasured it. Those things we use every day – so don’t even see anymore – often evoke the strongest memories when we are without them.

For me, the “butter dish” may be the trusty “popcorn pan” that I originally didn’t want because of all the burnt kernels that scarred the bottom, but now signify the multitude of memories that popped out of it. Take a walk around your house today and consider what is the equivalent of your butter dish. Hopefully, you never have to grab it in flight, but just acknowledging the role it plays in the story of your life should bring a smile.

Source: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, 2019, p. 97


About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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