Reprinted from Toni Pacini’s website Life Is Wrien On
When no one sees anything of value in you, in your bowl, you had best be able to see it for yourself, or you are truly empty.
I come from a long line of young mothers. My momma, Glenna, was sixteen when she had me and she was born when her momma, Lily, was sixteen. As if that ain’t enough coincidence to make a donkey spit, Great Grand-Momma Nella was sixteen when Grand-Momma lily was born.
Youngen’s having youngen’s, it’s true. In their day a girl wasn’t considered apt to amount to much more than a wife, momma, cook and housekeeper, and the sooner she got married and started her own family, the sooner her parents would have one less mouth to feed.
I’m not disrespecting a noble life’s calling. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to be a wife, momma, cook and housekeeper. I just think there ought to be a choice, but Nella, Glenna and Lily had no other options. They were taught from the crib, to find a man, hopefully a good one what wont hurt you or your youngen’s, and hold on to him, no matter what.
Glenna, Lily, and Nella were all storytellers, but my Great Grand-Momma Nella was the one to tell the story on the day of my birth, July 11, 1941. Every word she spoke was taken as gospel, but I can assure you that our families storytellers were known to take liberties with the truth. If half of what they said wasn’t a lie, then they nonetheless had stretched the thread of truth in the tale to unrecognizable proportions.
Great Grand-momma Nella had requested that our kinswomen and the mid-wife gather by my momma’s bed in our tiny house in Winston Mill Village shortly after I burst forth glistening from my momma’s life source. Clean and wrapped snugly in a red blanket and safe in my momma’s arms, I first heard the tale of my birth. Of course, I didn’t remember it, being just born and all. I would learn slowly throughout the coming years the yarn woven on that day by Great Grand-Momma Nella.
Nella told the gathered women, “A baby is born an empty bowl. In the days before the written word was saved to share in times to come, a newborn child would not receive a name for sometimes months beyond her birth, as who knows on that day what great things will fill that baby’s bowl? I decree that we return to the teachings of wisdom and lore and name this girl child not, but reserve that right for a day to come when we discover what gifts her bowl will carry.”
That is how I came to be called, not named mind you, but called, Bowl. I guess it just happened. With no official word to call me, I simply became Baby Bowl. I suppose that would’ve been all right, had I ever been named anything else, but I was not.
It seems that my kinswomen wanted a grand name. As years passed, it became clear that they found nothing of greatness in me to draw a name from. They waited for my bowl to be filled by a priestess, a graceful dancer, a songbird, but I was none of those women. I remained simple, maybe even slow, but steadfast, I grew true to myself in all things.
Unknowingly, by not giving me a name, my family gave me possibilities that they themselves were never afforded. In giving me an empty bowl, they allowed me to ultimately decide what I would fill it with. However, old ways and traditions die slowly, rooted as they are so deeply in the past. Glenna, Lily and Nella couldn’t help but repeat the lessons they were taught from cradle to crypt. I heard their words,
“You need a good man that will marry you and give you babies. Learn our recipes and secrets, Bowl, and you will be the envy of every woman in the village.
Always keep a clean house, as cleanliness is next to Godliness. If you heed our words, Bowl, you’ll be the Goddess of Winston Mill Village.”
I heard their words, but I did not heed them or put them in my bowl. Instead I reached for mysteries, old stars and new crowns, litanies of common songs and dreams of places yet to see and poems to write.
The years unfolded, seasons turned, and for new visions my heart yearned. A great disappointment I was to all, a girl who wanted not to marry, nor a child to carry. A young woman determined to write her own tale, although the words were slow to come and often did not rhyme. I held steadfast to my goal. The only item thus far in my bowl was a dream of life, raw, new and sweet. No more the old tales to repeat.
As I look back now, it seems so odd. Why give life to a child and then hobble them with limited dreams? Why not encourage your daughters to strive for all good things, like the mysteries and musings of masters and fools? Please don’t give me a life that comes with your rules.
Now, with many long years drawn, I discover life’s true worth. I’ve grown larger in presence, sense, bone, and girth. No longer a child, young woman, or crone. Today I am full and overflowing with joy, I know life is a gift and each day a new toy. I am Bowl, a woman complete. My vessel is full and like its perfect round rim, I have completed the circle from beginning to end. I am Bowl.