Thursday, March 5, 2009

Green Glass Bowl




I inherited any number of things from my grandparents, Eva and Max. From Grandma, a penchant for fretting and some skill with a crochet hook; from Grandpa, acerbity and a peculiar dark way of seeing the world; from both, my Judaism and a love and understanding of classical music.

I also inherited a green glass bowl. This bowl rested dead center of their enormous, formal dining room table for as long as I can see backwards into the past, probably since long before I was even born, always filled, predictably, with fruit: apples, bananas, peaches, and pears with only slight seasonal variation. We were welcome to help ourselves, and we did so--bananas to be sliced into cornflakes, or a stray peach cut in half and shared between me and my sister.

But the fruit was really for Grandpa Max. He was a creature of unflagging habit, and just as he shaved every day with Noxzema and traded his ubiquitous suits for short-sleeved button-up shirts and trousers in the summer, washed with Ivory soap and listened to the classical music station every morning for two hours after breakfast, so too would he eat fruit, two or four pieces a day, day after day and year after year. Lunch and dinner, he would without fail end his meal this way, eaten quickly, matter-of-factly as one would take one's vitamins. He ate apples including their pits and cores. He ate bananas in three bites. Peaches in two. He would often bite off a piece of peach, then hand it to the invariable doberman drooling and staring hopefully at his elbow. The dobermans died and were replaced by new generations of dobermans; the green glass bowl and the simple fruit remained the same.

I have this bowl now, dead center of my table, and more than anything else, tangible or intangible, it invokes for me daily the presence of my grandfather.

49 comments:

High Desert Diva said...

Wonderful memory. Glad you're keeping the tradition.

Candie Bracci said...

The best!Glass and memories from a grandfather.
:)

kylie said...

wonderful post leah!
it's beautiful writing and it tells a terrific story. i especially like the dobermans sharing the fruit.

xo

mouse (aka kimy) said...

what a beautiful post and loving tribute to your grandparents, and particularly grandpa max. although I never knew him, I can smell him and feel his presence....

your post also reminds me that the one object that I 'inherited' from my much loved grandparents is made of glass. it is a small glass pitcher - the bottom half is red, the top clear - on the red half is the word mother and the date 1902.

thanks for your memory and bringing up mine....

I hope you are having lovely weather on the street today. it is a glorious day her on the north coast (at last!!)

The Clever Pup said...

Nice memoir

Marianna said...

So nice that theme thursday brought up this wonderful story and these memories!

Take care
peace and love
xoxo

JGH said...

I liked reading about how your green glass bowl brings your grandfather and his habits back to you. He was what my mother would call a "fruitarian" (my son is one too - he could live on the stuff). Great that you are honoring his memory and keeping fruit in it today!

MJ said...

Have you seen Beast's fruit basket?

Brian Miller said...

beautiful post. i have fond memories of a great uncle and making him tomato sandwiches for lunch, everyday while in season.

no bowl to remind, just a memory to hold onto.

Dakota Bear said...

Memories are the best and you have really captured them in this post.

Avid Reader said...

Yes! keeping up the tradition is nice, and I'm sure he knows... it's funny how a memory long buried can resurface... this post made me remember my grandpa slowly peeling oranges and tangerines, carefully separating the segments and handing them out to us. He always did it slowly, but had plenty of oranges, we never minded how long it took, because it was comforting to sit and share.

Colette Amelia said...

wonderful memories!

runmotman said...

good post, wish i had 2 hours every morning to listen to classical music ... but i guess i would have trouble sitting for 2 hours without falling back to sleep.

Suzanne said...

Beautiful memory, beautiful writing and beautiful bowl (needs a Meyer Lemon!).

This post should be in a book of essays or in a magazine. It's a wonderful piece of writing. Have you considered submitting to magazines? If not, wow, you should. And my dear, the vivid images you create, remain. I can still remember every detail of your grandparent's lovely living room. I'd buy a book loaded with essays about your grandparents, or memories created over decades in the Adirondacks, etc., and I'm sure lots of others would too. And I'm not saying this because we're friends, I'm saying this because these are the stories I enjoy. I buy these books and take time to read magazines from cover to cover! My library is LOADED, as you know, and it's because I love stories about ordinary life and memories. You write so beautifully Leah and tell such wonderful stories with passion and love, so think about it.

A book of essays. I can see it on my shelf now. I will get the editors discount, right?

Love you darling. Hope you're having a great day.

XO

Mrsupole said...

Such a wonderufl story, I hope when our grandchildren are grown that they too have stories to tell about us. I have so few about mine because I only knew them a little. They lived in other states and did not see much of them. You are so lucky to have the memories. And yes the stories are great. You made your grandpa come alive. Very nice.

Thank you.

Ronda Laveen said...

What an honor to your elders. They would be proud! I still love the smell of Noxzema to this day. Used it all the time when I was a teenager. Haven't thought about it in years. You gave me a nice olfactory memory.

Megan said...

This was a great read, Leah, thanks!

Sounds like Grandpa Max was a pretty cool cat.

Cece said...

Awww! So beautiful and poignant.

HoodChick said...

That's great. I got my grandparents wall clock, which I know was an anniversary gift to them from my parents. Now, whenever I check the time I think of them.

Evening Light Writer said...

I love green bowls, I have one that is big and plastic..nothing fancy but everything seems so much better from it.

You grandparents would be proud of this, how often we inherit things and never appreciate it or give it second though.

Lovely post.

mago said...

You know that things are just things. They can help, be useful, for a memory, eine Erinnerung. Things are just - only - what we see in them.
You keep that bowl, you like it, you tell your daughter. Who has no personal rememberance of Max. Who will keep it, because of the memories connected with that bowl, her memories. Of her mother.

Exactly that, what you are talking about, die "Aufladung", charging?, of things, their emotional context in a given time, their cultural significance in the end - to show that is nearly impossible. That's where all cultural institutions as museums and galleries and whatnot brake, ship wreck, because all that is left are things. The dead body is a thing, ein herrenloses Ding, according to the law.

I have no clue where the spirit goes to. And I fear that there IS no place.

So, Rebbe, it's a glass bowl, isn't it?

Kick me, if you need.

(Shipwrecked see Ortega Y Gasset and as an entrance Weintraub's Vision of Culture. Still a good read.)

Kelsey said...

That was beautiful. Lovingly put and such a nice way to honor him - with the simple things.

-Kels

Old Knudsen said...

Ah yes me ma always had some fruit in a bowl, I have very out of character just bought some bananas they are soft and brown just like my dick.

Leah said...

Hi people, thanks for commenting!

Suzanne--such a compliment! It made my day! I've got three things in the writing fire now as we speak...although none of them involve my grandparents...we shall see, we shall see--I send you a ton of xs and os my dear!

Leah said...

For the people who shared little memories, of tangerines and tomato sandwiches and such, thank you so much for doing so!

xo

Leah said...

mago--I won't kick you, I liked your comment actually. But don't think you can out-gloom me, the gloomy Jew from Brooklyn! I mean, I'll challenge you to a contest!

; )

Leah said...

Old Knudsen: me too.

(Not-So) Cynical Gal said...

I love the way you write "as long as I can look backwards" brings out such a lovely emotional image.

mago said...

"out-gloom"? Like in "Gloom on you crazy diamond"? I'll loose ...

MJ said...

I'll kick Mago if you're not going to.

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Karen ^..^ said...

I loved this.

I have one item from my childhood with Gran. I went back to the old homestead once, after moving to New Jersey. I went in, and all the ghosts from the past were there. The picture of Jesus of the sacred heart displayed proudly over the battered couch, our old books in our simple bedroom. I'll never forget the look of shock in my (then) boyfriend's eyes as he regarded our plastic mattresses, in the room.

It was with utter sadness that I noticed that Gran left all of our pictures scattered there, hadn't taken any of them with her. She left us behind just as she abandoned the house and property.

I gathered a few of the pictures.

I did take a flower pot that I liked. It was one of a set of three. The middle one. I may take a picture of it and post it here, or maybe on my Larrow blog. It's about time I updated that.

It's all I have of her, other than tainted memories. But it still means a lot to me, and I'll never part with it. I have an orchid in it now.

Yours is a much sweeter memory, sweetened with the juices of all the fruit that inhabited the bowl, and the love you received from your grandparents.

I'm glad you have that bowl.

Skeeter said...

Great post Leah. I've got a few dishes like that too. Amazing how such simple things can have such history and meaning.

Best wishes,

Skeeter

savannah said...

i read this yesterday and couldn't respond. i spent the rest of the day thinking/remembering family, especially my grandmother and all i can say is, you are fortunate your memories are so good, sugar! this was a beautiful piece of writing! xoxo

Jimmy Bastard said...

A full fruit bowl on the table here, is a sign of class and distinct good breeding.

It must be true then.

The Clever Pup said...

Leah - thanks for visiting me. Your profile is nicely written and makes me welcome.

You've got a Tina Fey thing happening.

Kris said...

A great memory and thanks for sharing it with us.

Auntie, aka cagny said...

Oh, I see you are in Brooklyn.
Hello, I am in da Bronx.
Thank you for dropping by Dog Girl.
I can just see those drooling Dobies.
I have a new min pin in the house!

Baino said...

Nice anecdote about an heirloom. He sounds like quite a character. My father in law is a fruit freak, maybe I should buy him a bowl for his birthday next week! One of my treasured granny possessions is a cake stand but we hardly ever eat cake!

Suzanne said...

Right back at ya baby! I'm serious you know. Give it some thought. Often times essays are so much easier to write than a full blown novel. And I imagine a whole hell of a lot less painful! I enjoy your writing so much. You really are gifted. And to think, I almost deleted that comment!!! Really! I proofed it and thought "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and looked at the delete button. Then thought, "Ah, what the hell!" Now I'm so happy I didn't!!! That's too funny honey.

Hope you're having a great day. Love you and love this comment page. What a little treasure.

XO

Leah said...

mago, MJ is gonna kick your ass, lucky you!

Leah said...

Karen, your story is incredibly sad and profound. I read it over at your blog, and will comment when I marshal myself.

Leah said...

savannah, truly not all my memories are good...

Leah said...

Jimmy!--glad to see you up and about a bit!

Leah said...

clever pup--I was psyched to hear I've got a little Tina Fey thing!!!!!

Leah said...

Auntie! hello from Bklyn to the Bronx!

Mr. Shife said...

What a wonderful memory of your family and thanks for sharing. And it is great that you are continuing the tradition.

Skeeter said...

Hi Leah,

While I was having a banana during breakfast, I thought of your post. I'm going to have to get a bowl like that for the kitchen table.

Best wishes,

Skeeter

tony said...

Yes! Nurishment;Memory & Comfort.Look After That Bowl!