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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Pictures of Kids? Not So Much

We sat around a table at the senior center last week passing around photos for a writing exercise. I was a stranger in this group that meets every week. I had come to check out the visiting writing teacher. My seat faced a wall-sized mirror, so I was looking at myself all the time, feeling too young and overdressed for this group.

The people were incredibly friendly, but I soon felt like an outcast in another way: Most of the photos included children. Kids lined up along a fence. Kids posing at Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa. Kids in the front row of family reunion pictures. You know the kind, where the original couple is surrounded by the many generations. Yeah. I don’t have a lot of those pictures. My albums are full of dogs, cats, buildings, beaches, mountains, and flowers.

The picture I brought, which inspired some smiles, showed my first husband, my father and my brother all leaning down looking into the back of the VW bus that we took on our first honeymoon. That was in 1974, when I was 22 and had no doubts about being a mom someday, and no clue that the marriage wouldn’t last. The honeymoon, a road trip all over the western U.S. and Canada, was great. At home, we didn’t do so well.

But back to the pictures. I suspect most of us don’t keep actual printed photo albums anymore. I don’t, although I have quite a few from the past. We store pictures on our phones, tablets and computers and post them on social media, but it’s still the same. My friends show me pictures of their children and grandchildren. I show them pictures of my dog or the weird bear statue somebody draped in garlands this Christmas (Bondage Bear, I called him). I have some pictures of my nieces and nephews, but I don’t see them often, and it’s not the same.  I take a lot of pictures to accompany my blogs and other writing projects. But I’ll never line my children up on the front porch for the annual first-day-of-school photo. Or pose with their kids at Christmas.

What does that leave me to share or to save in albums? And who would I save those albums for? When I die, who is going to care?

I rarely get my own picture taken. Most of the pics I put online are selfies or photos I paid a professional to take. No one seems anxious to save my image or put it on the wall like the 1800s picture of my great-grandma Louise that I study at my dad’s house, looking for features that have been passed down, trying to sense the kind of person she was. Does anyone believe all those Facebook pictures will even exist in a hundred years? (remember floppy disks? Gone!)

I have been thinking about piecing together a family-tree style collection of photos of all my loved ones, especially those who have died, so I can look at them all in one place. The tree will not go on beyond me. My line goes only backward, not forward. I’m a twig that will never reproduce. So who would I do it for? Me. It would make me happy, and that’s good enough.

My brother, the only person with exactly the same ancestors, might be interested, but he is surrounded by children and grandchildren these days. His branch of the tree is getting heavy with new branches.

Back to that photo I passed around. The seniors got a laugh at the old VW with its “lawnmower” engine in the back. My ex, shirtless, squatted in front of the engine. He was the real mechanic in the group, but my father, still dressed up from the wedding, was bent over supervising while my brother, back in jeans and tee shirt, stood back, looking worried. It was his bus that we were about to drive all over hell and gone with “Just Married” painted in blue all over it and only three working cylinders. I could write a lot more about that picture than I could about yet another string of blonde, blue-eyed Oregon kids.

So what do you take pictures of? Do you put them in albums or other kinds of collections? Who will care about them when you’re gone? Does it matter? Please share in the comments.