End-of-day Glass

One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is a birthday celebration.

I immediately thought of my 14th birthday. How I didn’t want to celebrate it. How I wanted to sit and read in my room while the party went on downstairs.

Remember those teenage years where you often felt like a stranger in your own body, in your own head, where every emotion felt like the afterburn of an explosion? Where you scoffed at things you used to like, and embraced things you never thought you would? And no one, no one got you.

A few people did get me as a teenager. My Great-Gran Min was one. She lived in Ireland and was a glass blower, an artisan. Mostly, she repaired the stained-glass windows in the local churches or made endless sets of wine glasses for hotels and restaurants but her favourite activity was to fashion what was known in the trade as end-of-day glass.

End-of-day glass is the molten leftover glass often fashioned by glass blowers into one-off pieces such as vases and bowls. A whimsical, creative outlet for artisans who sometimes felt like they were on a conveyor belt of glass-making. Some people describe the pieces made as folk art in glass.

Great Gran Min made many beautiful things from her end-of-day glass. For my 14th birthday she sent me a selection, packed up in a crate.

Blue glass. Moonlight captured and moulded. A summer sky turning dark with rain poured into a vessel and left to harden. The colour of the ocean only scuba divers see. The colour of wishes, magic and midnight dalliances. Raindrops daubed by cerulean fingers. Alchemy and ecstasy all in one.

In some of the bottles and vases I put peacock feathers – big blue eyes bursting out of a blue body. Sunlight caught in the glass, scattering and drifting over my bedroom floor like jewels or stars. When I held my hand close to the glass it turned azure, draped in silk. I was in a sacred land, of beauty, of wonder, of crystalline light.

And I knew as the blue light fell on my legs, on my toes, that Great- Gran Min got me. That she understood, that she knew what a difference the little treasures she had fashioned would make. Her treasures cheered my soul. They made me leave my room and go downstairs and join the party.

I have them to this day. I will never let them go. Sometimes when I am alone I take them out of the cupboard, turning and twisting them to get the best view. It’s not enough to place them on the table and look from a distance, they have to be picked up, they have to be held.

And as the blue light from a bottle casts its arc over the tabletop and I pick it up and experience the cool certainty of it, I know what blue really feels like. It feels like love.

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22 thoughts on “End-of-day Glass

  1. Beautiful, both the glass and your essay.

    When I read “End of day glass” and saw the picture, I thought of the sky a few moments after twilight where there’s still a little light left and the sky is that perfect blue… Your Gran got it right.

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  2. It’s so true that the smallest gifts, especially the handmade ones, can be the biggest treasures. My Gram would sew clothes for my dolls and my uncle would make them furniture with popsicle sticks, clothespins and cardboard. I still have some of them.

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  3. As teenagers trying to manuever our awkward bodies through an more awkward world, it is wonderful to have, if only one, a person who understands us. Isn’t it interesting how so often this person is a grandparent. I think this is because they have learned from their mistakes raising our parents. I treasure the opportunity to be a grandparent. The blue of your bottles remind me of what is called cobalt blue here in the States. It is my favorite color and is very expensive.

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  4. Wow again! This was absolutely wonderful Selma. I love your Great Gran Min for knowing what was the perfect gift for you, at that time ( a rare talent indeed) and for you sharing it with all of us.

    I can relate to bringing out gifts from the past and reminscing on the person who gave it to me etc….it is comforting isn’t it. The blue glass is such a lovely cobalt hue.

    A lovely, lovely post!

    Hugs, G

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  5. Selma, Selma, Selma…my secret dream has always been to be a glass-blower. (Perhaps caused by my infatuation with the Williams’ play, “The Glass Menagerie”)In my very first blog-entry, in clarifying why I had to use my middle name in my blog-address,
    http://www.lisananetteallender.blogspot.com/
    I spoke of how amusing it was to me, that there is a Lisa Allender in UK who is a ceramicist and glass-blower, and I joked that she is the Lisa Allender who gets to do the glass-blowing!
    Your gandma Min sounds amazing. How lovely you have the treasures she crafted for you. Gorgeous–the pieces of end-of-day glass(sounds very uh, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, yes?)AND your writing of it–just gorgeous!

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  6. We used to have a blue glass dinner service called ‘Vereco Ware’ that we bought in Cyprus in 1968. All that’s left of oi is a couple of bowls and two breakfast plates. We still like to have our bacon and eggs on those plates at weekends … and it still makes us think of that beautiful, sunny island.

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  7. I remember my 14th birthday party well. It sucked, and was the last I had for years after. Just living through the years from about 16 to 23 was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Finding that the things that used to make me happy no longer worked, and then failing to find anything to replace those things for quite some time, was a terrible feeling. But that’s only the beginning of the problems I had.

    Blue glass. Yes, it holds a special charm. I quite like Skyy vodka because of the “cerulean” blue bottle it comes in more so than for the quality of the stuff inside it. You have a far better reason to like yours though.

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  8. “Remember those teenage years where you often felt like a stranger in your own body, in your own head, where every emotion felt like the afterburn of an explosion? Where you scoffed at things you used to like, and embraced things you never thought you would? And no one, no one got you.”

    I still often feel like this Selma which is a worry when you consider I’m 48 🙂 Must be the Peter Pan effect at work.

    You and your words are a magical wonder and balm for a troubled soul.

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  9. Ahhh yes, the turbulent time of adolescence when one is no longer a child but not yet an adult. How do we survive it.?

    DavidM.

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  10. Back again, it occurs to me that while what you have written is a ‘slice of life’ essay, i.e not fiction, Great-Gran Min’s glassblowing makes for a nifty metaphor for how adults like her can help shape the person that one becomes.

    DavidM.

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  11. What beautiful treasures you have, Selma … your Great-Gran Min was a special person and understood what you’d love. Good memories too.

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  12. KAREN – that’s it. That’s it. Oh, I absolutely love it.

    LINDA – that is fantastic. I’m so glad you still have some of them. Those sorts of memories are priceless.

    CRICKET – it seems to be true of many people that their relationship with their grandparents is more positive than the one they have with their parents. Maybe it’s because there aren’t as many limits placed on behaviour. I’m not really sure why it is but I do see it a lot.

    PAISLEY – I take that as the ultimate compliment. I feel the same way when reading your writing.

    GERALDINE – it is truly comforting to reminisce. I often wonder if a little bit of the essence of the person stays in the gift they have given you, especially if they have made it themselves.

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  13. LISA – you are kidding. Your secret dream is to be a glass-blower! Wow. It is a truly beautiful craft. If you ever get the opportunity to learn how to do it, you should. Watching the glass form is amazing.

    HILLY – that is such a lovely comment. I am really touched by that. Thank you.

    TRAVELRAT – I imagine it would. How lovely. My sister has a red set of wineglasses that she bought in Portugal and she says she always feels better after she drinks out of them. However, I can’t be sure if that is the glass or the wine. 😉

    BRENDA – you are lovely. Or as my son used to say – luverly!

    BRITT – you know yours aren’t bad, either. I’m so glad you enjoyed this story.

    ANTHONY – I remember I did write about her(I should find the post.) I think it was about the stained glass windows in the church. How lovely of you to remember.

    RWHACKMAN – those years….YIKES. I’m glad I only had to go through that once. I know the vodka you mean – it is a gorgeous bottle, shame about the vodka part!

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  14. GYPSY – I also feel like that. More often than I thought I would at my age. I actually read a psychology article the other day stipulating that middle age and adolescence share many common traits including the feeling of not fitting in. Can you believe that? At first I scoffed, but upon thinking about it I have a sinking feeling it’s true. I’ll have to find the article again and find out why it happens.

    DAVID – you are such a philosophical person. That’s why I enjoy your comments so much. I hadn’t thought about glass-blowing in that way before but I can see you’re right. Such a poetic interpretation.

    KATE – I have a few little treasures here and there. No diamonds or gold bullion though (only joking…) Some things transcend monetary value, don’t they? The sentiment attached to them is priceless.

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  15. RELUCTANT – oh, me too. I thought that feeling of being misunderstood, of not fitting in, would have passed by now – but there it is, lurking in the shadows. Thanks so much for stopping by. Welcome!

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