Bowl brings back time before I was childless

Maybe it was the chocolate Easter bunny I had just finished, vowing to start my diet again as soon as I ate the last bite. Maybe it was the lingering effects of my second Covid shot. Maybe I should have listened to my mother when she told me it was bad to leave the dishes in the rack to dry.

I was pulling the tray for the toaster oven out of the dish rack when I upset the delicate balance and watched my 47-year-old Pyrex mixing bowl slide into the sink and shatter loudly enough for my half-deaf dog to hear.

“No!” I screamed. Looking at the green and white glass in the sink, I wanted to cry. It’s not just the bowl, which was the biggest one in the set. I have other bowls. It’s the history behind it.

It was 1974. I was going to be married in a few weeks. I was sporting a tiny diamond on a white gold band. My engagement picture had appeared in the San Jose Mercury-News and in the Milpitas Post where I worked part-time as a reporter, writing features in a rustic old house-office with a bunch of hard-smoking, cursing reporters pounding away on manual typewriters on layers of leftover newsprint with carbon paper in-between.

I was also finishing my last semester at San Jose State, where I would graduate with my degree in journalism two weeks before the wedding. In my spare time, I was setting up the apartment where Jim and I would live. I had already papered the shelves where my bowls would be stored.

The shower was supposed to be a secret, but my grandmother spilled the beans when I answered the phone in my parents’ kitchen. She told me about someone who could not attend the shower at my aunt’s house on Saturday night. I played it cool, said something like, “Oh, that’s too bad,” then rushed to the bedroom to confront my mother. “Is there going to be a wedding shower for me on Saturday night?”

“God damn it,” said my mother who never swore.

Grandma never could keep a secret.

So many of the women who were there that evening have passed on, including the grandmothers, the aunts, my mother and mother-in-law, and my best friend’s mother, Ella Shope, who gave me the nested set of four Pyrex bowls, half white with green flowers, half green with white flowers. My friend Sherri gave me matching baking dishes. I have been using them ever since, through two husbands and 11 different homes, from graduation into Medicare.

Now those bowls are considered vintage and sell for over $50 each in the antique stores. Will I buy another one? Probably not. I’m at an age where I need to let go of things.

But the memories of that wedding shower remain. In those days (maybe still?) the number of ribbons you cut opening your gifts was supposed to predict how many children you would have. That night, everyone, including me, assumed children would be coming soon. Yes, I was getting a degree and working for a newspaper, but I’d be a mother, too, and such a good one. My own mother would be the best grandmother. My grandmothers would still be around to be great-grandmothers . . . None of us had any idea that it would never happen, that we would not gather again in a year or two for a baby shower, at least not for me.

Wedding showers are difficult if you’re not in a good place relationshipwise, but baby showers are the worst torture. To sit there watching the pregnant one celebrate the upcoming birth and all the moms comparing experiences that you might never have hurts so bad. I know you can indentify.

When everybody’s in the same mindset and the same stage of life, showers are a lovely tradition, making sure the younger, less financially stable person has everything she needs to start the new phase of life. Very nice. It’s just that some of us are going in other directions. We might need support, too, but it’s not built in like baby showers.

I haven’t been invited to a shower in years. That’s fine. Fewer hours squirming in the Planet Mommy. But I’m still jealous of that outpouring of support, the presents and the cake, and the man who shows up to help carry the loot home. I’m jealous of it all.

It’s interesting how material things last longer than people. I miss those older women who gathered around to share their wisdom and make sure I had everything I needed as I began my grownup life. All those women in dresses, nylons and pearls moved on, and now I’m the old lady. I miss that time when all was rosy and possible.

And I miss my green and white bowl.

What has been your experience with wedding and baby showers? Torture or fun? Have you received items that you will treasure all your life? Please share in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “Bowl brings back time before I was childless

  1. I was literally hemorrhaging from my uterine fibroids at a baby shower that is forever cemented in my mind. I think it may have been an omen of sorts. People laughing, eating finger sandwiches and people whispering to each other outside the door “what was taking me so long in the bathroom”. It’s still devastating to look back at. I was in a haze of intense physical pain, low in iron and battling extreme disappointment that I wasn’t financially in a spot to act on my doctor’s recommendation to get started trying for a family soon due to my medical problems. Little did I know my husband would drag on the process of establishing ourselves financially until it was too late. Still this moment is one of the most painful days on this subject. I think about it less frequently these days luckily, but it still hurts when it surfaces.

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  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your treasure. I have a beat-up metal colander that was my grandmother’s. Other people look at it like a piece of junk that should be tossed and replaced, but I see memories, from when I stood on a chair to help her in the kitchen “cooking” salad (shredding lettuce), to when I was a young adult helping to prepare holiday meals for our family. She is with me when I use it today, and I looked forward to one day teaching some young ones the cooking lessons she gave me, but…well…you know.

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  3. Thank you for writing this. I understand. My aunt died recently and I remembered the toy rabbit she had given me as a baby. My mum has died so my dad has custody of my childhood things. I asked him if he knew where it was and he said he’d burnt it on the bonfire as it was so old. My mum made parcels of old childhood toys for my brothers when my nieces and nephews were born but my things just gathered dust. I know it’s ridiculous to be upset about a soft toy aged 52… but I was.

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  4. I loved this story and thank you so much for sharing. My mother has her mother’s pyrex bowls(now vintage), and the set (blue, red, yellow, green) is carefully guarded like fine crystal. Wedding showers and baby showers can be miserable events–especially if you are in a different place emotionally. I say take the time for yourself, to heal as you need too-skip the fiesta and send a card.

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  5. I’m sorry about your bowl, Sue. I remember those bowls from my childhood so someone I know must have had them too. Some of the pans we use regularly were wedding presents given to my parents 50 years ago next month. The pans lasted a lot longer than the marriage…

    We don’t have wedding showers here in the UK. We take or send wedding presents to the couple on their wedding day. Sometimes people have engagement parties where they may get presents. However, these days people have lived together for several years before they get engaged so they already have everything they need for their home. Thinking about it, the last engagement party I was invited to was in 1997!

    We don’t have baby showers either so I’ve never been invited to one. In recent years, two of my Facebook friends have attended baby showers for their respective sisters-in-law but that’s it. I’m glad I’ve never had to face one as they do sound like torture.

    Even if I had become a mother, I would never have wanted a baby shower. Things can still go wrong in the later stages and, to me, it feels like tempting fate. I would not have felt happy attending one even if I wasn’t childless.

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  6. This is beautiful. Hard to read, as I can relate to the story. I often wonder what will happen to my own personal treasures, not valuable, just “stuff” to others, but to me they hold special memories. I often wonder what will happen when I am gone.

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  7. I loved this post. Nostalgia hits all of us at different times. I remember my bridal shower. One of my bridesmaids (my husband’s sister) gifted me with marriage advice books. Like the serious ones you read to sort out your relationship. Not the cute fun ones with wise advice from old married ladies. Looking back, I guess our problems were evident. Still, I didn’t realize it at the time how tacky and insulting that gift was. I don’t remember being insulted as I held up the thick books for the guests to admire. I don’t remember even reading the books. Unlike your bowls, I didn’t treasure the gift to even remember when I got ride of them.

    This past weekend at an anniversary party, I felt bits of nostalgia as everyone was sharing pictures of kids going to prom. Kids I’ll never have. Due to Covid, I couldn’t even go to my nephew’s promenade. Even at my own bridal shower, I didn’t think or consider that I’d be having children anytime soon. But I bet as I put on my prom dress, I swooned a bit, feeling grown up and imagining how my life would be different after graduation. It didn’t go as I assumed it would.

    At that same anniversary party, I noticed the “bite” of the “groom” as he spoke to his wife of 50 years. I noticed the resigned look on her face as she tidied up trays of food instead of enjoying her guests. I wondered if when she was having punch and cake at her bridal shower, she would have guessed that she’d be this unhappy at 50 years.

    At this particular gathering, I found myself looking forward instead of back. My husband and I worked hard to get to this supremely happy and balanced marriage. When/if we are lucky enough to hit 50 years, I plan to still be as happy. I plan to be radiant. Likely we’ll be celebrating on our own, but I want those people in the restaurant to see the joy and want that for themselves.

    Sorry about your bowl, Sue. Those silly little things we use in life are actually really special and I’m sorry that you won’t have that bowl anymore.

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  8. I’m sorry, Sue! My has mother still three of the four Pyrex bowls she got as a set for a wedding present in 1960… the red one broke early on (I have no memory of it) but she picked another one up at a garage sale a couple of years ago, so now she has the full set again. That big yellow mixing bowl has seen a lot of cookie dough over 60+ years! I’d be really sad if anything happened to it too (especially since it’s lasted this long already…!).

    I had a couple of smallish bridal showers & parties given for me before I got married — my aunt gave me one, took donations from the guests & bought me a couple of place settings of the Royal Doulton china I’d registered for. I have rarely used it in the 35 years since then, but I do treasure it.

    Dh’s cousin’s wife was going to give me a baby shower… the invitations had just been sent (she gave me one as a keepsake) when I found out I’d lost the baby. 😦 I’ve never had the courage to say no to baby shower invitations since then, but they have not been easy. I even went to a baby shower on the weekend of my 40th birthday (ouch!). I broke out in shingles about a week later. The doctor told me that stress might be a factor. Hmmm….

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    • The magic of our mothers’ bowls. My mother used the big yellow one for a lot of cookies. She kept the cookie jar full–nothing store-bought. Those baby showers must have been torture. I’m so sorry.

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