The Bowls

While watching a movie today I was reminded of my mother. The lady in the movie was collecting a set of dishware from a store as a premium. My mother did that one year. I was very young, but I remember….and then it passed into family legend, and of course, there were the bowls. They were pretty dishes. White, with a pattern of 3-5 colorful autumn leaves on them (depending on whether it was a large dish or a small one) and a “gold” band around the top. There was a gravy boat and a serving dish for vegatables that survived well into my adult years. And the bowls. We must never forget the bowls.  You see, just in case you don’t know, the way these things worked was, you collected stamps or reciepts or something and every week you turned in the required number in exchange for the “dish special of the week”. Each week was to be a different dish, until the loyal customer/collector achieved a complete set. My mother encountered the same problem as today’s movie lady. On week whatever, there was a problem. Some factory mix up. Or perhaps it was a shipping error. Anyway, one week the same peice that had been collected on the previous week was collected again. There were apologies. Assurances that duplicated peices could be exchanged at some later date for the correct replacements. Then, on the next week, it happened again. In this manner my mother collected 12 bowls. My mother is an optimist.
Apparantly, all these bowls were straining the capacity of the dish cupboard, because one Saturday morning all the dishes were out, spread across counters and tables, being “rearranged”. My father walked through the room and eyed the chaos dubiously. Suddenly some crazed sprite must have taken possession of him, there is no other explaination for what he did next. He walked to the table and began examining the leaf bowls. My mother stopped what she was doing and began explaining that she would eventually be able to trade them for the rest of the serving set. He said, “Maybe this is the right amount,” as he began pointing to the various stacks, “see, these are the soup bowls, these are the cereal bowls, and these, these are, um, these are the FINGER bowls!”and stood there grinning. My mother then did the most extrodinary thing. She called him a BAD WORD (it had to do with donkeys) and stomped out the back door, slamming it shut behind her! I’d never seen her act like that, EVER. My dad looked pretty surprised. Then he looked thoughtful. After awhile he put all the dishes away and made us kids some lunch. He looked at those bowls for a long time and finally put them carefully into the top of the high cupboard where the “good” dishes were kept.
When my mother came back in, they sat in the dining room at the table and talked for a long time. I don’t know what they talked about, because if you went in there they would tell you to “go play” in voices that brooked no arguments. I do know that for ever after, those bowls were kept in the top of the china hutch, with the “good” dishes and no one ever used them for anything. If you asked my mother about them, she would smile a small smile and say they were “finger bowls” and that she was “saving” them for trade-ins. For all I know, they are still there.

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