When is a bowl not a bowl?

In 1987, I had major surgery. It was a scheduled surgery, at least. I had trouble finding the food in the hospital at all tolerable, so after surgery, I ate next to nothing. A nutritionist nurse came to see me on my third full day after surgery because failure to consume food was the only thing keeping me from discharge. I finally asked if they could bring me a boiled hot dog (not my favorite way to cook a hot dog, but pretty difficult to mess up) and I ate it when it arrived.

I was released from the hospital within 2 hours. I had to have weekly follow-ups with the surgeon for 6 weeks, and after 48 hours, I could shower. I was bandaged pretty well, and supposed to change the bandages no more than 3 days between. Well, lucky me got multiple infections across the surgery site (remember, this was 1987 and there weren’t the breakthroughs of today’s technology, so we’re talking a major incision). At one point, the surgery site looked so bad to me that I couldn’t stand to look at it long enough to change the bandages. Fortunately, I had friends who rode with the local fire company ambulance and several of them helped me. I also ended up going to the surgeon’s office twice weekly, so I didn’t have to deal with it much on my own.

Six months later – yes, six months, half a year – I was finally released from care. It took me several years until I could finally accept the scars that were now a permanent part of my body, made worse because the infections I had ate away at my skin. It’s not a pretty sight, but it is what it is.

What does that have to do with a ceramic bowl, you wonder??? During my stay in the hospital, I received a flower arrangement from a truly dear friend. My husband brought me nothing, friends sent nothing – not even a get-well card, and even the company I worked for sent nothing. In that regard, the flower arrangement became even more significant. Once the flowers had died, the bowl was washed thoroughly and put in the cupboard with other bowls.

That bowl has traveled with me through 6 moves since I’ve had it. There isn’t a time when I take it out of the cupboard that I don’t remember from where – and whom – it came. The person, already a dear person and good friend when I received those flowers, continued to be a strong and active person in my life until passing away.

I remember, when I lived with a roommate before moving here, that I’d sometimes see the bowl in the sink, having been used by said roommate, and always having a fleeting thought of relief that it hadn’t been broken. Don’t get me wrong – it was an oft-used bowl, but my roommate wasn’t the most careful people I know. I’d think sometimes about how I’d react if it were accidentally broken by the roommate, and every time I’d think about it, I’d feel some sense of anger, not because a bowl was broken, but because that bowl had been broken.

Sure, there was a chance it would be ME who would actually break it, and yes, I’d have been angry at myself about it as well. But even now (more than 5 years after my move), how quickly I can feel the anger rise inside me when I visualize this person breaking that bowl.

I’m continuing on this project of sorting through pictures, and recently came upon a photograph of the floral arrangement in the bowl as it was when I received it. I’m certain that’s what sparked all of the feelings I’m having about it now. I didn’t keep the picture, didn’t even scan it. The same is true of quite a few photos I came across that would have no significance to anyone other than me. Besides, I still have the bowl; in fact, I used it yesterday.

My title for this post might be misleading, since it is a bowl and it will always be a bowl. But it’s a significant treasure to me more than just its usefulness. And, because it has a usefulness and is, indeed, used regularly, it isn’t something I feel obligated to give away in a donations box as I try to simplify my life because it has no purpose. In fact, it might be the first thing I’ve come upon that has a usefulness, not just a meaningful significance! So, sorry, brother dearest, it’s staying with me!

5 thoughts on “When is a bowl not a bowl?

  1. For us, it’s coffee cups/mugs. When we liquidated, we parted with many that had lost their significance and attachment. Then there were those we could not part with, dating to 1974 and early marriage in Germany which we hold dearly even though we don’t reach for them anymore. Your post has prompted me to get them out. But they are irreplaceable and a part of me would die if they were broken.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not trying to be rude. Just thought that if it holds that kind of importance for you, it should be with you rather than with me or someone else. Plus, I am pretty sure they have soup in heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In that case, please have the musical teddy bear that our Halbert grandparents gave to me when I turned 16 with me. It’s the oldest thing I own, which tells you of its importance. And “how rude” was a Stephanie impression from Full House! Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

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