A slightly different blog post. But one I can't resist sharing. We went out with friends last night and shared a conversation about our different parents and childhoods that brought back many memories. When I returned to our cottage last night I looked at an old bowl that takes pride of place on the table in our living room. I don't particularly like it. But I cannot part with it. This story tells why.
I was brought up by an incredible woman. She had come from a family of thirteen children. As the eldest she spent most of her young life looking after her siblings. Her own mother was so often with child or in labour so the duties of the household fell on my step mothers' shoulders. This was no easy life. One of her chores was to go to the village shop to buy a sack of flour to daily make the nine loaves needed to feed her brothers who all went to work in the coal mines as soon as they were old enough. She used to proudly boast to me how she saved money due to her skill of placing these loaves in the oven so that only one baking session was needed. They could all fit in one go if she was careful. Her family didn't have a lot of money. But they had pride and their home was always spotlessly clean.
Years later when she met my father she was working as a cook in a hospital and until the day she passed away she always prepared the most amazing of meals for us. With the little she had to feed us. Sunday meals often felt like a banquet to look forward to and what she could create with leftovers was amazing. She was 100% inspirational to me. I remember her watching me peel potatoes once and she told me that I would have to marry a millionaire as most of the potato was wasted by my efforts. I look back now, smile and understand so much that I did not at that young age.
To support and help my father my step mother worked. Her limited skills meant she had little choice when it came to finding a way to earn an income. Which is why, in one job she cleaned a lady's home in our village. I went with her once and as a little girl I couldnt understand why the lady couldnt clean her own home as it seemed much smaller than our own and should have been easy to look after. But my step mother took pride in this role. Her employer, a kindly woman always complimenetd my step mum on how hard she worked and how good she was. I am not surprised. My step mum was a perfectionist in everything she did. One of her favourite sayings was " If a jobs' not worth doing well its' not worth doing at all". And I agree.
This kind employer became elderly and frail. So much so that she had to go and live with her daughter. She didn't want to leave and by then was really sad to have to be missing the regular visits from my stepmother. Over time they had build up such a unqiue bond of friendship. On the last day that my step mum worked there she was given the bowl as a gift and memento. It was carried home with great care and for years later sat on the sideboard in my childhood home. I didn't really like it then. But it made my Step mum very happy. She would dust it carefully and talk about the kind lady who had given it to her. For years I remember her and the bowl and the story behind it. I now have this bowl and I still don't really like it. But I see it so differently now.
I think of my Step mum each time I look at it. I think of how she sacrificed her life for others. First for her brothers and sisters, and later in life for my father and me. She worked so hard to make sure we had a home to be proud of and we always had food on the table. When I passed exams to go to a Grammar School she worked even more hours to make sure I could have the uniform that was needed to attend. I can't think of one occasion when she did anything at all for herself. How selfless she was and she would give away what little she did have if someone else needed it.
I look at this bowl and know it reminds me to think of others too. And one day I will be giving it to one of my children. I hope when they look at it they will think of me so kindly. But having said that, not one will probably want it.
It has a story to tell and today seemed like a good day to share the tale.
The story of the bowl.