You know the gold branch you just put in that nice vase on the table downstairs?” my husband asks nonchalantly.
“Yeah,” I reply, still recovering from getting out of bed.
“It might not have been a great idea to put it there.”
My first thought is SHIT!
“Why? What happened?” I ask already knowing the news would not be good.
“My sleeve caught on it as I was leaving the laundry room.”
“Does that mean it’s totally smashed?” I ask, as I flash to how much I loved that frosted pink vase with its pale delicate green vines— a first Christmas present from him, now almost 25 years ago.
“Yep. ‘Fraid so.”
My heart does a little somersault. I love that vase. I don’t want it to be broken. My mind jumps to the downsizing exercise we are going through, where I’ve been questioning my, or the collective “our”, attachment to “things”. Inanimate objects. Why am I so upset about losing that vase? Why do we hang on to objects as if they’re the most precious thing in the world?
I also think back to another traumatic loss–a plaster statue of the Blessed Virgin belonging to a paternal grandmother I never met. I had coveted that statue from as far back as I can remember. I always felt an affinity for it. It was at least 90 years old, if not 100, and subtantial, about 18 inches high.
I don’t know why I moved it from our fireplace mantel to a shelf in my office, below a window. But I did. And it wasn’t long before our cat, appropriately named Krash, knocked it over in his haste to look out the window.
I heard the crash and rushed to the room. I saw the shards of plaster scattered across the floor. The statue had smashed to smithereens. Krash sat on the narrow window sill and stared at me, non-pulsed. I froze. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. And then I did the smart thing any woman would do in my position. I went outside in a torrential downpour and started mowing the lawn with our push mower.
“It’s just a thing,” I sobbed over and over, my tears melding with the rain. “Nothing’s going to bring it back now,” I reasoned. “Just accept it. It’s not the end of the world,” I told myself. My mind searched in vain for why I moved it in the first place. But I couldn’t remember, and in the end, what difference does it make now? I asked myself.
A vase and a statue. Things, I thought. Just things. But then I realized they were more than things.
When I looked at that statue, I felt a connection I never had. I was transported to a row house in Point St. Charles, Montreal, a home I never saw and envisioned the room, and what it was like, dark, quiet, where the statue would have been. My paternal grandmother, who I never met, is in that room. I can feel her.
When I looked at the frosted pink vase, I was back in the living room of the little house where we first lived, enjoying our first Christmas as a married couple. It’s snowing outside, our house is warm and cozy and for a few seconds, a wave of that heady, newly wed time washes over me.
The statue of the Blessed Virgin was unrepairable. I cried about it but soon let it go. The vase still sits on the kitchen countertop, waiting to see if it’s possible its pieces can be glued together.
I think about this as I reach in the cupboard and grab a mug for a cup of coffee. Out comes the blue and white striped one, and with it, a flash of my father in the kitchen of my Montreal university apartment 35 years ago. He gave it to me while there. I loved that apartment, and the memories.
In the end some “things” aren’t things at all. They’re precious memories that have made homes in our home. They’re part of the family. It’s hard to let them go or shoo them out, no matter what the circumstance.
But we simply can’t take everything with us when we downsize. And we can’t take anything with when we go go, as in, we depart the earth (or go into it, over it, whatever!).
So for those things that can’t make the journey to our smaller house, and there are many, I’m going to find them a lovely new home and keep their memories in my heart, where their real home always was, anyway.
And then they never have to move again.
(But I’m keeping the blue and white striped mug.)