My very first job at age 16 was in a small kitchen shop. Not like today's stores such as Williams Sonoma but more of a little boutique shop. This was before big box stores like Bed Bath and Beyond. This was when local people made a profession of what they loved and opened small shops where customer service reigned supreme.
It was "The Shop Around The Corner" of kitchen shops. It was called Charlotte's Web and the owner, Charlotte, was a jewel. I have always loved to bake and cook so this was a dream job for me. One day as I was unpacking the most beautiful bowls, new from Phaltzgraph, (remember them?) I told the owner how much I loved these bowls. The shape, voluptuous yet simple, heavy and sturdy with the simple band around the top dressing up just a little bit. I was in love. And then Charlotte said the most wonderful words had I had ever heard in my long life of 16 years, "Well you know you can set them aside in back and I can just take it out of your check".
Yes, employee lay-a-way. The heavens had opened up. I not only grabbed those bowls and set them in the back I started walking around the store with a careful eye as to what else I'd like to "set in back".
When I moved into my first apartment these bowls were an important part of my kitchen. The small one was just right for one person to mix just about anything. When I got married I found each one served a perfect purpose in my kitchen. The small one for mixing eggs or tuna salad, the next one up quickly became the daily salad bowl, the next one up was for big salads and large batches of cookies and the granddaddy of them all was perfect for making bread, which I did a lot of, and for taking salads to large picnics.
Over the years, even though I was careful I found they took a small beating. Especially as my three girls began to work in the kitchen with me. The other day as I unpacked these bowls and looked at all the chips and even a small hairline crack in one I saw them for the first time for what they really were. Not just beautiful bowls that were old and chipped but instead I saw beautiful pottery that helped me teach 3 girls (now beautiful women) how to cook and bake.
It made me sad to think of all the times I chastised the girls for not being more careful and getting upset each time there was a new chip. Not that I didn't want them to appreciate taking care of things, but when I look at these now I see little hands stirring with a big wooden spoon, slopping batter over the edge. I see eggs getting cracked with a tiny piece of shell dropping in and a sweet little face leaning over the bowl looking inside the bowl wondering what to do. I see sweet, angelic faces so proud as they showed their daddy what they had baked.
How I wish I could go back to do it all over again with them and each time there is a small crack or chip, hug them and tell them it's ok instead of a lecture on being careful.
They've now been assigned the top shelf with their age spots pointed to the wall, but they are still used frequently. When the cowboy is cooking these are the first bowls he reaches for. They really are just right.