Once, a Redwing pottery mixing bowl was given to a young woman by an older woman she loved, respected and feared. At first the young woman didn’t much care for the bowl; it was thick, uneven, hairline cracks here and there. This was a long time ago, when the young woman didn’t appreciate thickness and unevenness – Redwing pottery-ness – the way she does now, in her middle age.
But she used the mixing bowl anyway, because she didn’t have many bowls, and she was both a maker of pancakes and a baker of cookies. After a few years the green bowl became her bowl of choice, to the extent that she didn’t enjoy baking nearly as much if the green bowl were dirty or already in use. The green bowl had grown on her, and she realized that she loved its uneven thickness, its heft, its muddled green glaze.
The bowl was used, always, for salads, and the mandarin oranges and toasted sliced almonds of a particular salad – the salad of choice for six or seven years in the ’90’s – were beautiful against its sloped green sides. When the woman had to move suddenly, and then moved again, and then again, the green bowl was transported carefully, wrapped in newspapers, carried by hand.
One day the woman looked at the green bowl and thought, “This will be a bowl that I pass on to one of my daughters.” Not because it had great monetary value, but because it had held so many batches of cookies, so many pancakes and so many salads. Thousands of times, a wooden spoon had beat against the sides of the green bowl with that soft, soothing wooden sound. The warmth of kitchens, one after another, had always been with the green bowl.
Fifteen years after the bowl was given to the then-young woman, she mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies in it. When the cookies were all baked, she left the bowl on the countertop, to return to it later and wash it. An hour later, a crash was heard from the kitchen, and she went running.
The dog of the house, butter-crazed, had managed to paw the bowl off the counter. The bowl fell to the tile floor and shattered. Shards of green lay under the table, the refrigerator, the oven.
The woman is not much of a crier, even at funerals and hospitals and in the face of heartbreak, her own or that of someone she loves. But the green bowl brought her to her knees. She doubted that her children would remember it at all.