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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Green Bowls

After my father died last year, the task of cleaning out his condo fell primarily to my sister and me. She, our brother and sister-in-law, and I all wanted to keep a few things as mementos of our parents.

My brother took our father's World War II Navy uniform and some Navy photographs. My sister wanted a ceramic cat. I kept three green ceramic mixing bowls. Although all are green (one is green and white), they are not part of a set, as each bowl's color and style are different. Fortunately, however, they are the right size to nest inside one another, which made carrying them home on the airplane a bit easier.

I have put away my set of glass mixing bowls and now use these old bowls exclusively. I have no idea how old they are or where they came from. There are no markings on them that can identify the brands, manufacturers or when they were made. Nor do I know their source: did my mother buy them, or did she get them from her mother long ago?

These bowls are deeper than my newer mixing bowls, and as strange as it may seem, they have the 'personality' or character the newer bowls lack. It isn't just the color, texture or composition of each bowl, either. The largest of the three shows evidence of age and many years of use. They have a history, and they are a link to a simpler time. I wash them by hand, not in the dishwasher, and I don't know whether they can be used in a microwave. And that's OK. I am happy to wash them by hand. Microwave ovens and automatic dishwashers weren't even in use when these bowls came into the family.

I'm sure these old bowls have little monetary value, but they are valuable to me. These simple green bowls are a connection to my late mother, who was an excellent cook. Using them often brings back memories of the wonderful meals she created from scratch for her family. I am nowhere near the cook my mother was, but using these special mixing bowls still sometimes conjures up memories of Sunday meals after church, the entire family seated around an antique oak dining table. Aside from the occasional meal of liver and onions, and the stewed breaded tomatoes, everything was delicious. Some of our favorite meals included fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn, and roast beef with noodles. Chicken and dumplings (homemade, of course) and homemade cinnamon rolls are other favorites.

But more than just being a connection to my mother, these bowls also serve as a connection to a simpler time, a time when doors were left unlocked and kids played in the neighborhood on their own all day with no worry about their safety. My childhood was a time of family togetherness, of evening and Sunday meals around the table, of homemade food prepared from fresh ingredients, a time of simply sitting in the back yard on a hot summer day.

No, these simple mixing bowls are much more than just old pieces of kitchenware. They are reminders that sometimes the most precious things we inherit aren't pieces of jewelry, money or other 'valuables,' but simple, utilitarian, everyday items rich in memories.