My daughter broke the flower candlestick while cleaning the kitchen for soon coming company.
I found her huddled over the countertop, holding thick chunks of blue glass and Elmer's glue.
"I broke it, Mommy," she wept.
"It's okay," I said simply, while I turned her hand into mine and transferred the glass.
"But I didn't want to break it. My hand slipped."
Our old kitchen was gleaming; as good as it was going to get, anyway.
She was so sad ~ the candle vase that broke came from my Grandpa and Grandma's house. It is the only thing that I received when they both were gone. There was no real estate. My mother, their daughter, brought home some worn dishtowels and a couple of pots and pans and that was it. Mom wanted me to have something, so gave me the candle vase.
It was sea-blue, thick glass, shaped like a tulip. Nestled in an antique black twining metal of leaves, it has sat on my kitchen window for 22 years. Blue is my favorite color; I have stared at it often and wondered, "Where did my grandfather get this? Did he think it was pretty? Does a farmer born in 1906 think such things?" Regardless, it has been carefully wrapped and unwrapped and set in every kitchen window of every house where I have lived.
And today? I swept it casually into the trash and asked my daughter to please, don't cry.
It's a thing. Just a thing.
It was lovely. I enjoyed it. But it's a thing. It's not worth my daughter's upset, not deserving of her dismay.
She couldn't quite believe me, was angry at herself and wanted to berate herself long past my request to "please don't cry."
Emily, darling, I got over "things" long ago. Things don't reveal true worth.
With nine children, my nice things broke one by one years ago. I confess that I was angry with the first broken "pretty," dismayed at the second, grieving at the third, resigned at the fourth, and so on. And then, I just got over it.
(And this is not to say that we shouldn't teach children to be careful, particularly with treasures which belong to other people. We should. My husband likes us to use glass cups, even for the little ones, for this very reason. He sees clean up of glass and the potential mess as educational - it teaches them to be careful. But children are children and are going to break things, regardless. *I* still break plenty of things.)
I have almost nothing original from my wedding. No china, no casserole dishes, no trinkets from the bridal shower. I have gone thru two lovely gold and diamond rings that could not hold up thru cloth diapers and the cooking, cleaning, gardening and laundry that comes with raising a large family.
Right now, I wear a $6 dollar sterling silver ring in place of a wedding band. It suits me just fine - it should, I picked it out.
And I'm just as much married, just as much in love - no, MORE in love - with my husband than the day we were married.
And Emmie? I have so much more of Grandpa than that candle vase. I have memories of him in my heart. These are secure, as long as I remember, and that is where they really matter. I remember he always kept gum for me, always had lemon drops for us in the red pedestal vase on his bedroom dresser. I remember his work suits hanging in his closet, the way his Vicks vapo-rub smelled when I hugged him in his recliner. I remember that he took me with him to deliver water to the country people with cisterns and how he'd buy me a "sodie pop." I remember the day when I was around eleven years old and he lost his balance and fell face down in the dirt. One of his old buddies said to me, "Help him up, girl. Help your Grandpa up. He falls down because he had Polio as a boy. His legs still freeze up."
I wondered why I never knew that, but I certainly never forgot that day nor forgot how much comfort and security my Grandpa gave to my life. The vase - a thing - was pretty, but gave nothing.
Things are never more important than the people who use them, or even the people who enjoy them. Things have zero eternal value. Things come, things go. Let them go, lightly.
You, and I, and the rest of us here at home - our lives together and the memories we create - these remain for as long as one of us remembers.