Monday, January 10, 2011

Not Broken, But Restored



Last August I told you all about my neurosis about breaking my mother's or mother in law's china. I treasure the china that was washed, dried, and put away by their own hands.  When I touch things which belonged to them,  it's the closest I can come now to touching them now.

But my most treasured possession is a bowl, much like the one at the top of this post which I found on google images that apparently sold at auction for 1 whole dollar back in November.  My mom used it for salad, and she would wash and dry this bowl herself.  She would tell me how that bowl was once her grandmother's, then it was my grandmother's, then hers, and that one day it would be mine.  She thought the bowl was really something special, and while we had a fancier fruit bowl from Europe that was given to my parents by his Canadian cousins, this bowl was her treasure.   She stopped using it one day when she almost dropped it, and put it way back in the bottom of the kitchen cabinet.  It was a treasure to be put away for me.

A few months before my Dad passed away, Mom came home from errands and found Dad worried.

Daddy:  I'm sorry Helen.  (My momma's name was also Helen)
Momma:  What's the matter, Frankie?
Daddy:   I thought I'd organize the cabinets,  and I took out your grandmother's bowl, and I dropped it.  It's broken.  I threw out the pieces already.
Momma:  Did you cut yourself?
Daddy: No.
Momma:  That's the main thing.
Daddy:  I know what that bowl meant to you.
Momma:  Not as much as you do...

While I wasn't there, this is pretty much how mom said it went, and I believed her because of my own experience with how she reacted when I broke treasured china.   She always was more concerned about the person in front of her than the meaning behind an object.

Shortly after Daddy passed, I needed something from the cabinet.  Mom hadn't yet told me about the broken bowl.  I guess she hadn't the heart to disappoint me.  Daddy had "organized" the cabinets so well that I couldn't find anything.   I had to get down on my hands and knees and pull everything out of the cabinets in order to figure out.  I guess I really didn't need to go into the very corner of the very bottom cabinet, but since I was there, why not?  I pulled out great grandmother's bowl and called mom to come into the kitchen and take it because I didn't want to lay this precious piece onto the floor.

My mother walked into the kitchen, saw the bowl I was holding in my hands, and she cried.   Then she told me how distraught Daddy had been such  a short time ago over breaking what he thought was that very bowl.  I told momma that I was sure she reacted with the same gentleness she always did when I broke something, and she relayed the above conversation and added with tears "Still, Honey, he felt so bad!"

What could Daddy have REALLY broken that caused him so much anguish for my mother's sake?  Well, being the chief apprentice in her kitchen, the only thing I can figure out that was missing was a green Corning ware bowl that was chipped on the handle anyway.   We had that hidden away in case we ran out of bowls and were desperate enough to shame ourselves with that one I guess.  He broke something that we never would have missed.  Something we should have thrown away anyway.

Believe it or not, I use that bowl.  I keep ornaments in it around Christmas, decorated eggs at Easter, and fruit or pebbles or something I change off the rest of the year.  I like to touch it and feel a connection between my great grandmother (whom I never met, but from the stories my grandma told, I'm sure I would have loved her), my grandmother (whom I knew and dearly loved), and my mother (whom I loved even more) and me.  It strikes me as funny that to feel that connection, I have to put it to use, risking that it could break.   Though I could apparently find a bowl like it online and possibly purchase it for a dollar, it wouldn't have held the priceless touch of three generations of women.


This post is my contribution to Peter Pollock's One Word blog carnival. Today's word is broken.

15 comments:

Scott Couchenour said...

This is a beautiful post. I'm so glad you shared it. Thank you.

Glynn said...

Even broken things have their uses. I mean, look at each of us, after all.

Good post, Helen. I've never broken a piece of my mother's ormy wife's china or crystal, but I've broken a lot of the everyday stuff.

katdish said...

Wow, and to think your dad thought all that time he had broken that precious bowl. I don't have a lot of things my mom has passed down to me, but the things I do have are treasured--full of memories of childhood. Beautiful post, Helen.

Jason Wert said...

What a fantastic post. Amazing how things that cost little in monetary terms can have such rich value.

Jason Wert said...

What a fantastic post. Amazing how things that cost little in monetary terms can have such rich value.

Duane Scott said...

Not to brag or anything, but I've never broken a dish.

I know it wasn't about your post, but I just thought I'd share that.

And this post was well-written, Helen.

Lisa notes... said...

I'm amazed at your mother's kindness. My mom would probably have reacted the same way. But would I??? Hmmm....

jasonS said...

You have to risk the brokenness to get the value. Wonderful post. Thank you, Helen.

Wendy said...

I have a bunch of things like that from my grandma, but they're all packed away in a tub in the basement. I'm so afraid of breaking them that I never take them out. Maybe I should do something about that.

S. Etole said...

Some beautiful hearts in your family ...

Melissa said...

Like your heirloom bowl, we must be willing to come out in the open (Luke 8:16), be open an vulnerable and giving of ourselves, and risk the possibility of being wounded or "broken" in order for God's light and beauty to be seen. Wonderful lesson in your words. Thanks for sharing. :)

Jeanne Damoff said...

Love this, Helen. What a precious glimpse into the warm and loving relationships in your family!

Candy said...

Helen, this is beautiful. Precious things are meant to be enjoyed. And face it, we all have a few cracks. They make us one-of-a-kind, which was God's intent.

A Joyful Noise said...

What an awesome true story. Your mother was a kind and loving woman and knew the proper remark to make at the right moment. Your poor dad having to carry that hurt and never realizing that what he broke was considered a throw away. I am so glad that God never considers us a throw away, but he is willing and waiting to display us in the proper place where HIS beauty can be seen in us. I believe beautiful things should be used and God considers us beautiful in his sight.

Cris Ferreira said...

Beautiful family story, Helen. I have a lot to learn from your mother's graciousness. Thank you for sharing!