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A Little Happier: Ordinary Belongings Become Precious as They Persist—Like My Parents’ Brown Bowl


As I think back on my life, it’s so strange to consider what sticks. What smattering of moments or facts do I remember from grade school, or from law-school? I remember in college, my roommate looking at some daffodils growing in a courtyard and quoting John Milton’s poem “Lycidas”—“And Daffadillies fill their cups with tears.” I remember that moment every time I look at a daffodil.

And what objects have followed me across the years? Recently I went home to Kansas City, and, just as I do every time I visit my parents, I used the sturdy brown mixing bowl that they’ve owned for as long as I remember.

On this visit, I held up the bowl and asked, “How long have you had this bowl? I feel like we’ve always had it.”

“Well,” my mother said thoughtfully, “we got it at the Halls sale after the Plaza flood. So much had been ruined by water, they had a big sale, and we picked up the bowl there.”

“When was that?” I asked.

“The Brush Creek flood was in 1977,” said my father.

I did the math. “You’ve had that bowl for forty-four years!”

I’m sure they bought it carelessly, without any notion that it might stay in their kitchen for decades.

Ordinary belongings become precious as they persist. They make us feel rooted in our own existence, with the comforting feeling that “Some things will never change.” Things will change, of course—but pulling that brown bowl off the shelf makes me feel like they won’t.

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