I woke up with this idea for my New Year’s Day post…
My grandparents are 89 and 97. After than many years on Earth, you amass a lot of great stories. One of my favorites is what I like to call “The Bean Bowl.”
My grandparents are pretty amazing people. Grandpop was an organic research chemist and Grammy met him when she was a lab assistant. They both got into archeology and amassed quite a collection. As a result, their basement was practically a museum. Seriously. When they went into a nursing home a few years ago, they donated about 80% of their collection to the Pennsylvania state museum in Harrisburg.
Among the arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts was this one glass fishbowl. It contained about two inches’ worth of pink spotted beans in the bottom. When I was a kid, I asked him what it was all about. “I’ll tell you when you are older,” he said.
Once I had made him a great-grandfather, I asked him again about the bowl of beans. I guess he figured I could handle the story he was about to tell:
When I married your grandmother, a bunch of my scientist buddies at the lab had a bachelor party for me. Towards the end of the night, they gave me a present. When I opened it up, it was this fish bowl and a bag of dried beans.
They explained to me that I should put it on my night stand and after your grandmother and I got married, I was to put a bean in the bowl every time we had marital ‘relations’ until the end of our honeymoon phase (two years).
For the rest of our marriage, I was to then take a bean OUT of the bowl for the same reason.
My colleagues warned me that for the rest of my life, I would never be able to empty the bowl… And that’s how they prepared me for matrimony!
We both laughed.
I then went to my grandmother and asked her if she knew the significance of the Bean Bowl. She shook her head. I asked my grandpop if I could tell her and he said okay. I retold the story (mainly to make sure I got it right) and at the punch line, she just laughed and pinched him on the arm.
It’s one of the more special memories I have with them. Partly because it was just the three of us, partly because it’s such a clever gift and partly because it was a rite of passage that I could be in that circle.
Why am I telling “The Bean Bowl” story on New Year’s Day? Because as off-color as the anecdote may be, it’s really about keeping tabs on a situation- a physical representation of the status of things.
So I’m thinking of stealing the Bean Bowl and adapting it to our family. We can put a bean into the bowl for every good thing our children do- chores; being sweet to each other; helping others. And we’d take a bean out for the infractions- forgetting to do homework; stretching the truth; a messy room…
I’m inviting you to make the Bean Bowl a part of your 153Promise in your household. It can serve as a light-hearted reminder to make good choices as a family. You might even put a line on the side as a goal and a reward is enjoyed by all once your family gets enough beans.
It’s certainly more versatile than a swear jar, and it’s a lot easier to keep track of than a fancy chart. Plus, there’s the added benefit of it being one communal bowl.
And imagine the look on their faces when you explain to them the origin of “The Bean Bowl” when they are old enough.
Just remember that the originators are Benny and Doris.