Thursday, December 22, 2011


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 simple:

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.


  1. You hit the nail on the head. When these things happen we have a choice: to have our treasure on earth or in heaven. To show our children we value them or things. My usual reaction is to be upset (not irate) at the action behind it if the were rough housing or being disobedient. I know my kids can tell you on most occasions I am not mad about the broken item.

    Bless your little girl for cleaning up so diligently and thoroughly; there is a true treasure.

  2. Amen!!! Love, love, love, love, love this.

  3. Well now you can tell me not to cry!!!

    I am very happy to have learned this lesson early from a friend who also babysat my kids while I worked. Breaking something was nearly an impardonable sin in my house growing up. One day her daughter knocked a frame off the wall and broke it. She started apologizing immediately but my friend's first words were, "Are you OK? Don't step on the glass!!" And she meant it! I think my mouth dropped open. I had never seen a response like that and I vowed I would react the same way to accidents. I think I've done OK.

    You did OK too. :)

  4. Also, I will never forget breaking a glass on my grandma's front porch. Of course everyone was in a tizzy, which I realize now was probably more b/c I was barefoot. A few months later Nanny was at our house and broke a glass and had the forethought to lean down and hug me and say, "See? Even Nannies break glasses. Now we're even."

    I'm crying thinking about that. Stupid pregnancy hormones.

  5. Wow! I have tears streaming too. I think most of your readers can relate. I recently was upset that my mom had sold a ceramic Christmas tree my grandmother had made. In a yard sale no less. How could she. It was obviously priceless!!! :) Granny always had it out in her home at Christmas and it was very much a part of my memory of her because I would sit and move all the little plastic lights around on it whenever I was with her. I was hurt because I was not asked if I would like it. The other day while driving alone I realized, like you, it's just a thing and began to think of all the memories I have of her. How she rolled her hair with bobby pins every nite and sat "under" a hair dryer that she kept in the closet. It was HUGE! How she smelt like Oil of Olay and Halls cough drops (what is it with elderly and menthol anyway??!!). She made the best scrambled eggs and toast of which my sister and I have never been able to duplicate. Thanks for the causing this moment of reflection. You are a great mom. I know I haven't always responded in such love when my kids have broken those "things". May I strive to so that one day when they have their children will say the same. Thanks Holly!

  6. By the way, Bill did not write this Becca did... lol!!

  7. Took me a long time to learn this. Sometimes I still forget. Just today I wondered aloud why I can't keep anything nice.

    I remember losing a ring when I was about 16 and my mom telling me pretty much the same thing you told Emily. It's just a thing - they get lost, stolen and broken. Things worth keeping last forever.

  8. So true...I have 3 teacups from my grandma (all 4 grandparents are still alive), and wanted a set of depression glass items from their house when they moved to an apartment. They ended up going to my cousins instead, and at first I was a bit angry, but then got over it. I have WAY more memories of my grandparents, and have heard so many stories over the years and been able to spend a lot of time with them. So much more valuable than some glass dishes!

  9. Beautiful post! I too wear a sterling silver ring that I picked out because I would scratch the kids accidentally with my diamond ring. I've worn this sterling ring for 12 years. I call it my $10 ring! :)

  10. I love this, Holly. We've had a few things break and my daughter's reaction is to start wailing and weeping. I try to show her how to react to this by calmly saying, "It's ok! Things break. That's ok. We don't worry, we just clean it up." I hope as she gets older she will not stress about 'things' - something I have had to learn as my parents did indeed place a lot of value on material goods and we got into lots of trouble for breaking things.

    I'm so with you - people are important, not things. (Well of course if I lost my engagement ring I'd be rather distressed, but I truly understand the sentiment!) Photos are another thing I'd be sad to lose too. Memories are forever, though.

    Val xx

  11. Yes, Val. I felt that way when I lost my diamond from its' setting - distressed. And when Emily's hard drive crashed and she lost all of our pictures for several years (and thru the births of two children....) I felt so sick. So...yes. Some things have such special value to we really can feel ill over their loss. I know what you mean! :)

    But, overall - things are things, and I do well to remember that. If you've got that "down" with your sweet little daughter (so young!) you are giving her a true gift. :)

    p.s. I'm so thankful that some of Em's best photos were on facebook or here on my blog. We are pulling together bits and pieces from here and there - also, I had printed out most of Mariam's birth/first months pictures so that I could scrapbook them, so I do have those.

  12. Rachel, yes....rough-housing that results in broken things is not one of my favorite, either. ha ha. :) But they learn, don't they?

    Patricia, thank you! :)

    Brenda, that was a real gift your Nanny gave to you. :) I grew up in an "older time" (it feels,) and everything was dealt with harshly. I've had to learn these lessons and sometimes it has not been easy.

    Becca - really? Bill doesn't read and comment on my blog? :) Ha Ha. And menthol? It suspect I'll pick up the habit when my AARP card arrives in the mail....although that isn't all that far away!!!! :) I remember those hair dryers - aren't you grateful for simpler hair styles? :) I am! You are a great mom, too...just perfect for those girls of yours. Wishing you many, many blessed memories of those you love.

    Sara - oh, I know. The other day, Jeff and I were walking around the thrift store. Yes, that is where we go for fun. We can't help ourselves. So - I sighed and told him, "someday, honey....I'm gonna have things that match. And they're gonna stay nice." He said, "Really." Me, "Yes. Really." And then, I said, "No. Not really. Because I'm gonna have so many grandchildren there won't be any point in trying to keep nice furniture. So, never mind." He nods. :) But you know - it's the same thing. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't. It's just....stuff.

    Kat - :) That is so gracious of you. Those memories really WILL mean so much more to you - they are safe in your heart and mind and will never break.

    Candace, really? Someone else who chose a silver ring? :) I like your reasoning. If I were choosing all over again I would have likely gone with a simple band. I like jewelry, like pretty things, can "ooh and ahh" along with everyone else on Pinterest - and do!!! But, it's just not practical right now. I'm happy with what I've got - wouldn't be any happier, honestly, with a huge diamond on my finger. Big deal. I'd just lose it or break it. :)

  13. Stacey, you slipped by me there. Thank you for your kind words. :)

  14. Something that we have done is purchase an external hard drive and ALL our photos are backed up on it. So - they are on two laptops and the external hard drive. We figure we're covered! LOL! I feel sick for you too that you lost so many pics. I thought I lost my phone once and I literally felt nauseous as there were over 1000 videos of Amelie on there from birth that were not backed up. SO thankful I found it (under the car! In a public place!) and promptly came with the the back-up system!

    Val x

  15. It *was* the external hard drive that crashed. Fried. Caput.

    She had - unbeknownst to me - transferred all of her pix over to the external. She thought she was doing the safe thing and freeing up disk space.

    Really, we have the best shots - so we're okay. But we've learned some lessons. :) Frankly, I now like the idea of online storage AND a external source. I'm also really, really thankful that I've blogged for all of these years, and that Emily let me use her pix here.

    Glad you found your phone, too (!) Those are truly the things that make us feel ill when we consider losing them. I think, though, that they are so deeply tied to precious, precious memories and times.

  16. ...Because they help us (like ur last line) to remember. <3

  17. Oh my! WHAT!? It actually let me comment for once! :)

  18. This is beautiful Holly. Of course, I'm crying. Losing things can hurt sometimes - having lost everything we owned, I know this - but losing people, losing memories, those "things" are so much more valuable that you soon realize the "clay" doesn't matter much at all.