On Love and Things

I knew the vase was going to be a problem right away. I liked it too much. My friend had given it to me near the beginning of my marital fallout and I was incredibly touched. Someone was thinking of me?! Someone sees me?! Someone wanted to do something nice for me?! In a way it was actually quite pitiable just how amazed I was at this gesture of thoughtfulness. It was all in the timing. I was in the process of being devalued and discarded, see. And when one is in the throes of questioning their entire self worth, any small token counts. Like bones being tossed to a starving dog. Already, it feels like a lifetime ago…

My appreciation and love for the vase should’ve tipped me off. And at the risk of sounding too prophetic or sagacious… it did. My household seems incapable of keeping nice things… nice. Or even intact. We have been known to break cast iron pans and kill cacti. Nice things… in a household with five choleric-sanguine boys? They don’t live here. At least not for long.

So I was simply waiting for it to happen. For some careless child to break the vase. I had the choice to lock it up high and out of sight… but I liked it too much. So I placed it strategically at one end of my mantle, in full view and designated it the bearer of all seasons. It held tall grass in spring and summer, cattails and wheat stalks in autumn, silvery bare branches in winter.

Then it happened. An exuberant 7 year old was tossing the throw blanket basket into the living room air (because this is what makes sense when one is 7) and the vase plummeted to the brick hearth and broke. Terra cotta and hand painted designs in pieces. The children stopped. Silence. Everyone knew I loved that vase. Odd, because it is a rare few “things” that I love at all… preferring utility and minimalism to clutter. But beauty trumps both utility and minimalism.  I put my hand over my mouth and closed my eyes, distrusting myself to speak until I processed what just happened.  An older child began the shaming of the younger one. A couple minutes later, I calmly said, “Please go brush your teeth and get in bed.”  Rare, prompt compliance.

My emotions?  I observe them as a scientist with curiosity. My initial instinct was one of compassion for the child. Shockingly… and honestly.  I felt bad for him. Not anger, not irritation, not frustration… as has been my historic norm. But compassion. It’s true! I AM growing a heart!! His eyes had met mine. He knew. He knew that he’d made a mistake and broke something precious to me. What an awful feeling! The poor kid! He was just being a happy, little scallywag and the vase happened to be in a place that—in this family— is the High Risk Zone (read, anything between ground-level up to 6.5 feet high). What a burden to bear!

So I swallowed my disappointment about the vase. Those reading this are the only ones who know, now, just how much I loved it. Just how much it meant to me. Just what a shaft of light it was for me in a very dark time. But in the end…. it’s just a thing.

I went to my son’s room that night at bed-time and beckoned him with my finger. He couldn’t make eye contact and moved towards me in silent shame. I hugged him. I told him I loved him. I reminded him to say his prayers that night. I kissed the top of his head.

And that was it. No need to lecture the poor kid about rough-housing in the living room. He already knew. I just wanted to make him feel loved. To make him know that he was worth more to me than the vase. To show him what mattered in life: bed-time hugs and prayers.


2 thoughts on “On Love and Things

  1. Mignon

    What a terrific meditation! I have such a hard time with the loss of sentimental objects myself, and have certainly been guilty of the Post-Breakage Lecture. But grace comes in too, from time to time… and a good thing!

  2. Erin

    The memory of the love behind the gift will never be lost.
    And your son’s memory of your reaction will be just right. when I was 9 yrs my parent choose a different reaction to yours over a treasured item and I’ll be honest, that reaction left scars. To this day I have made a conscious decision to choose your reaction as a result.


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