Monday, November 29, 2010

Memory Monday: The Flower Bowl

The inspiration for this story was provided by “The Pink Bowl” at Karen's Ancestor Soup.

It is amazing what emotions can be inspired by a simple piece of crockery.

The bowl itself both is and is not part of a set. It is part of a set because it is one of eight Corelle bowls that we picked up at reduced prices in one of those promotional sales grocery stores have. It is not part of a set because it is the only bowl that does not match the other seven. You know how it is – you start collecting one design in dishes, and the next Saturday when you go food shopping, the store is featuring a different design. “We don’t have any more of the green ones.”

So you resign yourself to having one bowl and three coffee cups with green flowers and the rest of the dishes in the set with a single red stripe. The three coffee cups died the death cheap dishes often meet, but the flower bowl soldiers on.

One bowl has a red stripe at the top, the other green flowers at the bottom – a huge difference

It’s not as though most of our non-holiday dishes aren’t odds and ends, anyway. There are two Mickey Mouse tumblers picked up at a dollar store whose bouncy “old” Mickey has long since faded to ghostly outlines from repeated washings in the dishwater. There is my old chipped coffee cup that has always been one of my favorite gifts from my mother. A very nice, solid off-white dessert plate from a neighbor who sent over a piece of cake and then moved before we had a chance to return the dish. A knife that belonged to an old boyfriend’s mother; it has the initial of her maiden name.

The flower bowl, perhaps by virtue of its “uniqueness,” at least in the eyes of my daughters when they were very young, had a status enjoyed by few other household items or even toys in our home.

It was the dish to have at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The arguments over it started when my younger daughter was barely old enough to speak in full sentences, let alone have the judgment or patience to be able to wait for her turn to use it. And there was often confusion over whose turn it was. If Mom had served lunch, how would Dad know at dinner who had last eaten from the coveted dish? And if Little Sister was demanding and whiny, Big Sister was sneaky.

One day the usual argument erupted. It had not been a good day. Both daughters had long since used up all of their good behavior credits and gone deep into debt at Mom’s Bank of Good Will.

“You had it this morning. It’s my turn.”

“Wanna have it. My turn.”

One double grab for it, an overturned milk glass, and a high, piercing wail later, Mom was at the table with eyes glaring and mouth pursed into that grim line that meant only trouble and sorrow for all concerned.

I let silence fill the air for several seconds as my daughters turned to look at me with wide, alarmed eyes.

And then I let loose. On only one other occasion has the Mom Screech ever been so loud and so long. (It was in the car, after a long day, with two mindlessly arguing children. Oh, so you’ve been there, too.)

Only one lucid sentence was among the outburst of tired, mindless fury: “I am putting Flower Bowl away in the attic, and neither one of you will ever get to eat from it again.”

At the end of it, it was not the “reasonable” older child who broke the second long stretch of silence following this tirade, but the daughter who I thought would never emerge from irrational toddlerhood:

“Please, mama, don’t put it away. She can have it.”

The ensuing sound that resembled air escaping from a balloon was my indignation evaporating. I put the bowl up in the cupboard and cleaned up the milk, with the girls’ help. The next day the flower bowl was out again at breakfast and resumed its daily routine of being passed back and forth between the daughters from meal to meal.

It was sometime after my older daughter started middle school that the carefully kept schedule gradually faded away, though I noticed that whichever daughter set the table for dinner usually gave herself the honors.

And these days, when I put up the dishes from the dishwasher as my last chore in the evening before going to bed, I put the flower bowl at the top of the stack of bowls.

Because tomorrow morning I will take it out and have my cereal in it.


  1. How special! We have some nice dishes, but the one that everyone wants to use is the one similar to yours. My husband calls it the "dog dish" - I think because it's larger than the others. :)
    I was going to get rid of it when I replaced our dishes - with ones that all matched. There was open revolt. :)

  2. I had a whole set of the green flower dishes! They were the 1st set of dishes owned.

  3. Had the dishes, love the story, actully still have some of the cereal bowl size, the fur kids are honored to have their dinner in them.

  4. Wow, did this post bring some emotions to the surface for me. My grandparents had a blue plastic cup in the shape of a gun (don't ask!) and all us grandkids fought over who got to drink from it. When me grandpa died and my grandma moved to assisted living I was living in Florida. I asked my mom to look for that cup for me but it was gone. I still search every old picture taken at my grandparents for that cup to be sitting on the table. Funny how such a little thing has such a big impact on you. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Greta, Wonderful memory, and a memory that still lives on for some of us. Like many of you, I still some of my green flower dishes, and the all white. Love them. Goodness, must be about 30 years old or so. Always liked going to the Corning outlet to replace broken dishes. Love how you take something so simple and make a wonderful story.

  6. Thanks for sharing such a cute story. Growing up my mom had one glass mug, which my brother informed me was his mug and I could not drink from it. Well, I did sometimes when he wasn't looking. The mug was a brown glass, with a cowboy (I think) and a wooden handle. Mom gave it to him a few years ago. She asked me if I wanted it and I told her what I remember about the mug it is funny she didn't remember. I guess my brother told me when she wasn't looking.

  7. Mind boggling how our memories work and the significance of small things. You've set me mentally strolling through my mother's long-gone house touching dozens of things. I'll have to ask my kids what it is they fought over/treasured. Thanks for this, Greta. Really fun.

  8. We had a special thing that we fought over. It was a spoon. When I moved out, I stole it.

  9. I had those same green trim dishes. they did not break. No longer have them but do have bowls that were my mother's and grandmother's. I love to use them for soup or chili. Great memories

  10. Now if only you could find one more Flower Bowl so that both daughters could have one when they marry and have their own children. Of course, maybe they'd have to take turns with the original Flower Bowl and exchange it every year at Christmas.... Great post.

  11. Love your story... funny how such simple things can become so treasured.

  12. Karen - It was so funny; as soon as I saw your post, it lit the idea in me, and I thought, "Wow, she had a special bowl, too!"
    Nancy - That is a great idea! One that I mentioned to Karen was that whoever continues my family research gets it!
    LGO - Most of the Corelle dishes have survived, but for us the coffee cups did not fare well - our previous dishwasher, "The Crusher," at the handles off at least two.
    Shasta - I so understand about the spoon! Maybe that's how I ended up with that knife....
    NR - I bet you'll turn up a lot of obsessive/possessive stories!
    Harriet - This is spooky - I'm pretty sure I am familiar with that mug - we had one or two - it had a barrel shape and a western theme; the wooden handle was attached to two metal bands that encircled it at top and bottom.
    Barbara (and Carol and Linda) - Glad to hear that several of you had/have these dishes. Hmm, I hadn't thought of visiting the Corningware outlet. I went there a couple of times when I was living in Boston.
    Lisa - I hope you can find a cup like that one somewhere! My Mom and I lost of humble but precious items in our many moves. There are few items I'd give anything to have again.
    Carol - A pet dish is a great way to keep the bowls!
    Linda - These may have been our first real dishes, too, except for those few odds and ends.
    Jennifer - That's the way a family should work - open revolt when a beloved item might go away - love it!

  13. Wonderful story!

    When I saw the line "It is amazing what emotions can be inspired by a simple piece of crockery"

    I had to laugh because I immediately wanted to write:

    RE: "It is amazing what emotions can be inspired by simple crackery"

    Sounds like the emotions little ol' me brings out in my sisters, who have never understood where Big Bro is coming from, hee, hee. ;-D

    Kiril The Mad Macedonian

  14. Loved this story, Greta, and your very funny telling of it. Oh, for a moment of time-travel! I'd go backwards and sneak into your old kitchen in the dark of night and slip another bowl into the stack--one of yet another pattern--and then hover to see what hubbub that might bring upon discovery!

  15. Oh what a super post! What a wonderful thing to think about-all the dishes or cups or glasses that bring back such memories. I like the chipped turquoise and brown ones at Granny's-she saved them from when she took care of her Grandfather and all he could he was oatmeal-they came free in the oatmeal.

    I can just see your girls at the table with the spilt milk-what a wonderful memory.

  16. Well, They say better late than never. I loved your story. Children are such wonderful parts of our lives. I liked how you handled it. ;)