The Pickle Bucket
By Jane Boulware

“He is rich or poor according to what he is, not what he has.”

— Henry Ward Beecher


The following is the first essay in Jane's career memoir, Worthy: From Cornfields to Corner Office of Microsoft.

Highlights from the first 18 years of my life fit into a 5-gallon bucket. Literally. Each kid in my family had one. The buckets were lined up, five in a row, jammed under the rafters in the attic. Mine was white and originally stored pickles at Mac’s Café until mom got ahold of it and scribbled JANE in bold magic marker across its white belly, making it mine. Five gallons worth of pickles is a lot of pickles. Five gallons worth of life isn’t much, but it was mine. In that bucket was the time capsule of my life, where only the most important memories, photos, ribbons, and certificates of worth (birth, baptism, first communion etc.) were placed for safe keeping. The very proof of my existence was stored in that bucket. Some kids get scrapbooks and home movies; I got a pickle bucket.

What went into the bucket said a lot about me, my childhood value carefully tucked away among the ribbons and achievements, the vessel into which my pride was stored. Ours was a family where worth was defined by how hard you worked and I was determined to fill my bucket to the brim with what I’d done and achieved, the proof that I MATTERED. Only treasured items made the bucket. After all, treasures are not pickles.

Yet to this day when I smell pickles, I think of home and of Snorty, my stuffed hippopotamus and best friend into whose snout I whispered all my little girl hopes and fears. I carefully placed Snorty into my sacred pickle bucket for safekeeping after he became too fragile for the pragmatic world in which I lived, secure in knowing he was there, awaiting the day I should again seek his counsel, again stroke his thread-bare pink nose to find comfort among things scary and confusing. Until he was gone.

Gone with everything else dad deemed unworthy the weekend he cleaned the attic. Dad kept the scraps of carpet and barrels of moonshine lining the rafters but tossed the pickle bucket with JANE scribbled boldly on its belly and, with it, chucked Snorty and the assorted treasures preserving my dreams and proclaiming my achievements. Maybe he didn’t think I’d notice or mind, for mine is a practical, hard-working family not one to dwell long on yesterday’s achievement nor ponder dreams of tomorrow when there is plenty work to be done in the here and now. As I think back on my childhood in the here and now, some memories are sketchy and resist being brought back to life, some memories stay stuck in the bucket and are forever gone while others spring onto these pages, glad for the telling. Regardless, these are my stories as I remember them, even though most evidence was lost the day my bucket was chucked.


Jane Boulware is a global business leader and former Microsoft executive. She is a writer, a charismatic speaker, and board member who is passionate about helping people claim their worth and forge the future. Jane’s joy is being outdoors with her husband and two sons.

All proceeds from her memoir Worthy will be donated to the Boys & Girls Club of America's Youth of the Year scholarships.

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