When Carnival Glass Can Speak
There’s a carnival glass sugar bowl on a window ledge in my sun room. It came from my old bedroom, on a shelf my brother made in junior high woodworking class, above the desk where I sat and did homework through high school. This last spring, after my mom’s passing, I needed to sort through her house and decide what to keep. Pack rat that I am (see previous post) I took way too many things. The box of greeting cards my parents received on their 25th anniversary. My mother’s last pair of glasses, unfashionably big and causing the girls to giggle. My brother’s favorite childhood stuffed toy, an elephant now faded with eyes oddly repainted red. When I asked him if he’d like to keep it, he said, “Why?” Why indeed. And especially, why me? He is three years older and I don’t remember it, but I do remember my mother showing it to me during one of our annual attic cleanups. She told me how he held it all the time when he sat in his little red rocking chair, the plastic cracked chair she placed it back into before we moved on to the pile of empty boxes saved for “someday when I need a box just that size” (again, previous post, and you can see where I got it from). And I also kept the carnival glass sugar bowl, while asking myself, “Why?”
Several days ago Rose told me she needed my help for her first sixth homework assignment. She was to ask a parent to find some object in the house with a story. She needed to learn the story, write about it, and be prepared to tell the class why it meant something to her mom or dad. As is often the case, she reminded me of this at the worst possible moment. I was trying to head out the door to get to a wedding in Kansas City while answering repeated calls from Helen “because no one else is picking up their phone!” Doing my usual sighing for dramatic effect (Rose is now an expert at doing an impression of this), I looked around and saw nothing that seemed right until I spotted the glass sugar bowl. This is what she wrote:
The special figure I have now is a carnival glass sugar bowl. The story of this bowl started in my mom’s second grade class. Back in the 1900’s, many families didn’t have very good items like we have now. One day in second grade, my mom and her family moved.
My mom was nervous that day because she had never moved before. She was told to walk to her new house after school. When the bell rang, her teacher asked her to stay a few more minutes, after everyone left. Her teacher asked about their new house and how they liked it. My mom answered some yesses and some no’s. After they chit-chatted, my mom’s teacher gave her a special present as a house warming gift.
Of course you know what it was, it was the magnificent sugar bowl. This sugar bowl is made out of carnival glass. It is an amber color, and the color and the handles remind me of a phoenix. What makes carnival glass special is that every piece is shiny, translucent, colorful, and iridescent. This figure is very special to my mom because it reminds her that it is from her favorite teacher. From this day forward it shines bright on her travels everywhere.
I haven’t taken it on any travels but it does shine bright in my window. And now another story comes to mind, a story about Rose and her favorite teacher. It was the first day of kindergarten and, like many of the parents, I stayed at the back of the room to make sure my child didn’t have a complete meltdown. The teacher, a petite woman with a very soft voice, stood in front of the children seated at her feet and asked who was a little nervous and a little scared. There was a lot of looking around and timid expressions before a few hands went up in the air. Then a few more and a few more until it was a sea of small hands. And then, the teacher, this wonderful teacher, held up her own hand and said, “You know, I’m nervous today too.”
I know now why I kept this carnival glass sugar bowl. I kept it to give Rose a story. A story about a little girl whose teacher understood her fears. And I kept it to give me a story too, and a reminder that, if you have the courage to hold up your hand when asked who is scared, there will always be someone around to help you find your way home.