This is the time of year for remembrances. For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading and hearing about soldiers – distant and recent past, as well as present – and reminded of their honour, duty and sacrifice, and the freedoms I have because of them. This year of course has been all the more significant, with two more Canadian soldiers fallen in the line of duty. A sobering modern day reminder that peace is always precarious, and life in uniform involves risk even at the calmest of moments.
For me, this time of year involves personal remembrance, too. My dad – Pop – died four years ago, two days after Remembrance Day. Each year so far the remembrances have been slightly different, but always somber, hushed, and reflective. I also typically share some time or at least a conversation with my sister on that day, to share memories and feelings, and hugs if we can.
With that remembrance, I’m brought to this object. This “bowl of cherries” was something I made for Pop several (likely 15) years ago. I didn’t make the bowl itself, but I did do the painting. It was at one of those paint-it-yourself pottery places. I don’t remember anything about the occasion for the painting – typically, one goes to those places for either a specific purpose or as part of a party or group, but I have no recollection of either – but I remember the inspirations for the idea of making this for Pop.
The more immediate impetus was an off-hand comment made by Pop and Susan. In either email or conversation, one of them had said, in reply to the “how are things” that life was a big bowl of cherries (the other likely adding with a cackling laugh, “just be sure to avoid the pits!”). In those years, Susie was recuperating from another surgery of some kind, and while they were both active and happy, things were still challenging. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we know how challenging. Looking back the phrase about the pits seems tragically trite.
A more distant inspiration came from a much earlier gift to Pop. For a long ago Christmas, I had sent Pop a pottery popcorn bowl. I was blue and grey, and at the bottom of the bowl was the phrase “time for more”. The bowl reminded me of even longer-ago times with popcorn and movies and the drive-in – childhood memories that all blur together, with no specific timeline or incident. But the essence of that bowl of popcorn with Pop felt nostalgic and true. The gift garnered no specific comment from Pop, and I had thought I’d missed the mark with it. But years later, during my last visit with both of them, I saw the bowl on their kitchen counter and Susie told me that it had brought similar memories and smiles to Pop over the years since, making me feel a connection to him and our past that I previously had thought was just a trick of my imagination.
When Pop moved away, and we were sorting through belongings – keep, store, sell, toss, give away – the cherry bowl was repatriated to me. No sign of the popcorn bowl, sadly – likely gone with his initial cull of possessions and keepsakes, now living with another dad or family after discovery at his garage sale – but the cherry bowl had survived. Perhaps it was somewhat treasured (I like to think), or perhaps it was just handy for storage (more likely, considering it was used for part of his extensive scissor and glasses collection). Regardless, it has joined my collection of objects with a story.
As this day of remembrance passes, and I move on to the next date of meaning, I’ll keep the bowl out for a while. Perhaps I’ll finally remember the circumstances of its genesis. Maybe I’ll use it for a meal or occasion. On display or tucked away, the cherry bowl will continue that connection to the past and person for whom it was meant. Like the poppies and poems of today, lest we forget.