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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