The Tulip Pitcher
A Picture of Springtime

Since the felt picture broke the tradition of communicating with me late at night, I was not surprised that the tulip pitcher chatted with me as I prepared supper. The tulip pitcher has been a part of my life for years. I can remember when my mother made iced tea for the family during the hot summer days in South Jersey where we lived. It is one of the treasures of my childhood that is still treasured in my twilight years. Therefore, I was delighted to talk to it and get the backstory of this Campbell heirloom. Since the tulip pitcher had decided to talk with me, I was delighted and encouraged it.


"I and the felt picture have been in your life for the vast majority of it. I came into your family's life during WWII. You lived in Merchantville, NJ at your Grandfather Oakford's home on 19 W. Walnut. Back in those days, homes didn't have air conditioning. On hot summer days, nearly everyone would sit out on their front porches and drink iced tea to cool off. I've seen gallons upon gallons of iced tea back then when your dad was in the South Pacific. Families hoped the summers would be cooler and that their men would return from the war safely."

I asked the tulip pitcher how my mother obtained it. I love the hand painted pitcher's design.

"My acquisition by your mother is a sad story. She didn't buy me; I was given to her by your father's best friend's wife, Dottie. I was bought at Wannamaker's in Philadelphia as a wedding gift to Dottie and her husband. Both Dottie's husband and your dad had been drafted; one went to Europe and the other to the South Pacific. However, back in those days, couples had quick weddings before they were shipped overseas. The uncertainty about life back then caused many couples to get married and hoped that all the American servicemen would return from the war...alive. You arrived in the world about a month after your dad graduated from OCS, which was in Bunkie, LA. Then he, your mother, and you met in El Paso, TX for a couple of weeks before he left for the South Pacific. You were just a couple weeks old. However, I wasn't there yet in your family.

Dottie and her husband were married like your mother and dad before being shipped off to Europe. Several months after you were born in January '43, Dottie gave birth to a little girl; her name was Bonnie. The first year for both Dottie and your mother went well as new mothers. However, Bonnie got sick when she was starting to walk.

"Bonnie hadn't been herself for a couple of weeks. When she got a real high fever, the family called Dr. Hadley. In those days, doctors made house calls, and he came right over and examined Bonnie. After fifteen minutes, he came into the kitchen to talk to Dottie. Your mother was there helping to care for Bonnie. He broke the news to them that she might have polio. Back in the 40s, there was no polio vaccine. Even the mention of that dreaded disease caused terror for parents. A bleak future awaited anyone with polio - death or an iron lung. If the child were lucky, braces and crippled limbs. After some questions from Dottie, the doctor left.

"Talk about memories of the past being burned into one's mind. Dottie comforted poor little Bonnie while your mother made iced tea, and then they went out on the front porch. They drank the tea as Dottie rocked Bonnie. They talked about what had to be done if she had polio.

After several days, Dr. Hadley confirmed his diagnosis. He talked about getting braces for Bonnie so that she could walk. However, everything that was done over the next several months seemed not to work out well. Bonnie was getting worse.

"Initially, Dottie didn't tell her husband. He had enough to worry about to worry about while fighting the Nazi's in France. As Bonnie got worse, Dottie was caught in a bind. However, just before the Christmas of 1944, matters got worse. Bonnie had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance due to some complication with her condition. She called your mother, who came over to take care of a couple things. She was about to lock the apartment and join Dottie at the hospital when a serviceman came to the door with a telegram that Dottie's husband had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Actually, he had been killed about three weeks before, but the information took days to work its way back to the States. I can only imagine what your mother was going through. How would she be able to tell Dottie about her husband's death in Europe while she was dealing with the trauma of Bonnie's illness?

"All that I know is that no one came home that night and most of the next day. Late in the afternoon of the following day, Dottie and your mother returned without Bonnie. It was the saddest time that I had ever experienced. Dottie had lost her husband and her young child. Her life was shattered, and Dottie went around looking lost. She decided to return to her parent's home in Sommers Point along the Jersey shore. She didn't have a lot of things to pack up other than clothes and some personal mementos of happier days.

"As the two of them were packing things into several suitcases, I looked around. There wasn't much left in Dottie's apartment. Your mother picked me up and was about to tuck me between some towels in a suitcase when Dottie said, 'No, you take it. I won't need it and don't have the space.' That is how I came into your life.

"They said good-bye as your mother drove her to the bus station in Camden. It was at this time that I took up residence in the Campbell household. The following summer, your father returned from South Pacific as things in your family went back to normal for a short while. As you know, a couple of years later, your mother got breast cancer but was able to beat that. However, then it was years of battling lupus which finally ended her life. That is when your dad gave me to you.

I knew well those years growing up in Pittsburgh, PA. We both were silent for a moment until the tulip pitcher began again. "You said that you treasure my presence in your home and that you love the painting of the tulips. Have you ever thought about why you treasure me? What was my appeal?

I thought for a while and could think about just liking artwork.

Then the tulip pitcher added, "I wonder whether having experienced pain and suffering in your years growing up with your mother's illness made you yearn for spring like days when tulips are blooming. Then you have, as you say, danced with death yourself a couple of times. Perhaps, you understand your nearly dying awakened you to life."

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