Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Bowl

My mom used to serve mashed potatoes in this bowl.

Made of stainless steel, the curving sides of this mid-century classic hold its best secret. When everyone else thought the bowl was empty, I knew that some careful spoon work up inside the rim would always yield a few last, hidden bites of deliciousness.Waiting until my impatient herd of brothers had pushed back from the table, and my mother had begun the long process of cleaning up, I held my secret close and hoped no one else would ever discover me.

Mashed potatoes were holiday fare for us, and this bowl only used for special occasions. Since we celebrated most other holidays at my grandparents' home, I associate my mashed potato ritual and this bowl mostly with Christmas. And as anyone who comes from an emotionally difficult family knows, the biggest holiday of the year typically unfolds as a complicated and painful day.

Sometimes, the mashed potatoes grew cold as I waited at the table for an argument to wind down.

Or suffered during the chilly silence of an unhappy meal when my stomach tied itself in knots.

Sometimes the smooth, starchy goodness was exactly what I needed to soothe my troubled little soul;

Other times I simply choked down what I knew was good for me.

One year, everyone in the family got sick except my mom and me; we had all the lovely steak and mashed potatoes for ourselves. Despite the gloomy atmosphere of a sick house on Christmas, I remember feeling happy that year.

All those times are over now. I've let the troubled memories go, just as I eventually carried this bowl to the sink and scrubbed out the last unreachable bits of potato and sent them swirling down the drain.

And now my bowl sits, gleaming and alive, on my family's table where we now like to fill it with fresh fruit. I don't need it to keep my secrets any more.

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