It stood on my grandmother’s dresser in the lounge. A strange, glass bowl about eight inches across, of several soft colours, neither striped nor layered, but like clouds in the sky, their burred edges blended and vague..touching and yet not..where two colours would have a common border , then interrupted by another intruding between the two.
When I was around twelve years old I asked her what it was. My grandmother came from Ireland, she was a tiny woman with a wealth of stories from the old country. She saw my curiosity in the bowl and after a moment’s hesitation, she got up from her arm-chair and came and reached up and took the bowl down from its place on the shelf.
“It’s called a ‘Love Bowl’ “ she spoke, not necessarily to me, as to a distant past. “Or at least that’s what my mother called it…It was hers …given to her by my father when they were courting.” She touched the bowl tenderly, turning it around slowly in her hands, the familiarity in which she caressed its surface demonstrated that she had done this thing many times in her life.
“Here,” she said , once again noticing my interest “ look at this..if I hold it to the light in a certain manner, like this..look..you can clearly see the blending of the colours..it all becomes clear and concise..you can see it all plain as day…But then, if I turn it this way..now look!..by just the slightest effect of the light, see how it now is clouded and opaque..like you have no clear idea of where one colour stops and the other starts…it becomes confused..you no longer can trust your own eyes…that’s why it is called a “love bowl”…because that is how love works”.
“What do you mean, gran’ ? ” I asked innocently.” How does love work?”
Gran’ placed the bowl on the wide board top of the dresser and leaned on her fore-arms and we both stared at the bowl while she explained.
“ When one is in love..truly in love, one trusts and one gives oneself completely over to that trust so that one’s eyes become clear and focused…like when the light falls in the right place on the bowl and you can see the blending of colours clearly..you have no doubts, you have no fear in your heart.” and grandma suddenly stood straight and threw her arms up in the air “ You feel full of life and full of joy..you feel you could take on the world and win!..and why not?..you are in love..”
Gran’ stopped in her enthusiasm and once more came to rest her arms on the dresser. She turned the bowl to another side and slowly spoke again;
“ But then..if you suddenly start to doubt your love..like the colours in the bowl when turned against the light, you can no longer see your way clearly..you start to doubt even your own eyes and you start to imagine what is not there..suspicion creeps into your soul and you blame others for what you yourself conceive..and then anger, jealousy and spite enters into the relationship and that’s when love leaves the house..” She took a deep breath and straightened..”That is why the bowl is always left so that the light strikes it at the right angle…so love will stay in the heart and in the home.”
I remember then reaching for the bowl and I nearly upset it, so that gran’ quickly grasped it and held it away from my greedy fingers. She was frightened.
“No!”..she cried “In the name of heaven, boy..be careful!..” She must have seen a look of hurt in my eyes, so she softened and explained..; “It’s the glass, lad..and the way it is made..It is worked in a certain way , of such glass, of a certain temperature that if it were to break, it would not just break into several bits, but shatter into a million pieces so that it can never be put back together..it would break like a broken heart..”
“Your dad must have loved your mum.” I remarked casually.
“ He did, lad..he did..but she died in childbirth with her forth child…and not more than a year later he remarried…” Gran was silent for a minute “He married his younger secretary..and I sometimes wonder…” She looked at me and stopped.
She then replaced the bowl up on its shelf, adjusted it to her satisfaction and dusted her hands on her skirt and stared for a moment.
“I suppose I should be thankful it is still in one piece then .”
Gran’ passed away a long time ago now, but I have often wondered what happened to the bowl.