Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What's in a Sugar Bowl?

It sits on my kitchen counter every day. It has been with me since my Grandma Drazdoff passed away on my 16th birthday. One her sentimental and cherished possessions, she left this item especially for me.

It is a little sugar bowl in the shape of an apple. The bottom is round, clear glass. The lid is grooved gold that forms the top of the apple, complete with a stem for the handle. The spoon too is gold and fits through a small cut out hole in the side of the lid. It was a gift that my grandparent's received on their 50th wedding anniversary. From who, I don't know.

This was an item of great significance to my grandparents. They were Russian immigrant farmers and apples were one of the crops they grew.

It symbolizes my family's ties to the land and love of growing things.

It reminds me of my grandpa's affection for me because each year he selected the largest and best red delicious apple from the harvest and triple polished it just for me.

It represents the quality of self reliance that permeates our family belief system. These folks raised or grew almost everything they needed to survive.

It also tells the story of their enduring commitment to each other with over 50 years spent together as life partners.

Each time I put sugar in my coffee I remember my grandmother teaching me to cook some special Russian dish, making me practice rolling my r's to get it just right or sending me to the garden to pick fresh green beans for our dinner.

I remember too that one of my Russian great grandmothers refused to eat white sugar because of her experiences in the sugar factories in Hawaii where they landed soon after leaving Russia. The stories were never told to us children but we knew there was some horrible truth related to how white sugar is made. I still wonder about it.

I have very few items of my grandmother's, but this one item is enough. In this one little bowl a whole world exists for me.

Such a simple item. No one would ever know just by looking at it that it holds so many secrets and so much meaning for me. It speaks volumes of my family heritage and where I come from. It contains not only sugar, but the very stuff of which I am made, deep in my soul.

I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

I think we all have things, some tangible, some not, that connect us to our history and our familial heritage. It does us good to honor and acknowledge those things. No matter what has gone on in our family's history, it is part of what makes us who we are. Good or bad, our history influences us. It's up to us to decide whether that influence will be positive or negative... no matter what the nature of the past.

Honoring our history and learning from it is a way to harvest the lessons and blessings that are there for us, while releasing anything that needs to be left behind. I believe one of the great challenges of a human life is how to learn from the wounds of the past, without letting those wounds define us. The 'good stuff' is easy to look back on and see value in. The darker, more painful parts, are harder to look at with harvesting gifts in mind. That, however, is the key to crafting the future that we crave.

Got any sugar bowls lying around that might contain more than sugar?

From Right to left: Great Grandma Drazdoff,
Great Grandma Maklakoff, Grandma Drazdoff
My Uncle Johnny & my Dad (blonde!) in front
Working in a hop yard

Me and Grandma Drazdoff picking sour/pie cherries

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