Shards of History

Her friend stands with her back to the vase’s table, she stands too close. As her friend turns around, her elbow leads her spinning motion, her arm pressed closer to her body, her shoulder scrunched up, and the tip of her elbow jabs right into largest width of the vase. The vase wobbles left, it wobbles right, it spins around on its bottom rim. With each wobble, she thinks of a moment the vase had been through. During the first world war, her great grandmother had pulled up one of her floorboards, dug a hole just large enough for it, and she took the vase, stuffed it with fabric, and placed it carefully in the dirt under her small, farmer’s shack. She kept it there, while the rest of her family thought it had been taken when the soldiers raided their home for metals and gems. Duty to the country, they said. But it wasn’t, it was safe. When the war was over, she pulled up the floorboard, dug the vase back up, and showed it to her husband and children. They knew it had been in the family for six generations. The painted porcelain was done by Jean-Jacques Bachelier. It had survived through the War of the First Coalition, War of the Sixth Coalition, the Hundred Days between France and the Netherlands, and now the Great War. Its beauty still in tact. 

As the vase tilts and starts to tip over the side of the table, a table specifically made to hold it up high, she thinks of how it survived through the second World War. Her grandmother had packed it in her suitcase, a measly 20 inch by 12 inch by 8 inch box. She surrounded the vase in her clothing, and filled its center with the same. She rushed out of France as soon as she heard the Nazis were headed for the border. Keenly, she kept a radio receiving so she could overhear what the soldiers were saying. She hurried to pack what little mattered the most to her, and it could never be enough. She followed her brother, the last one of her family left in her home, to the Southern Coast, and from there they took a boat to Africa, ultimately headed here, to America. It had survived every search they were subjected to along the way. It didn’t break or get stolen. 

And today, as she watches it slowly drop through the air like an anvil, despite its light weight, as it tilts top-rim first down, as it falls the four feet to the floor, she makes a run for it. All the weight of her family’s triumphs and terrors, with centuries of meaning embedded into its glaze, comes tumbling down because she didn’t spend a little extra for the glass case around the vase. She jumps low to catch it, her hands reaching out in front of her, putting all the pressure she can into the balls of her feet, to propel her far enough to reach its point of contact with the floor, to prevent that contact. 

As she skids and scrapes herself with rug burns, her arms get just close enough to land between the widest part of the vase, the heaviest part, and the floor. It falls into her hands and comes tumbling out of them, tilting back the other way so that the bottom rim lands on the floor. She slowly rises to her knees and then her feet. She walks over to the vase and picks it up with dutiful care. She inspects every inch of it, for a minor scratch or a major crack. There’s no crack in its sides, nothing under the surface, no scratches. But then, she inspects the bottom rim of the vase and she realizes, a small chip has been knocked off. She looks down to find it, and in front of her on the floor is the missing piece. She picks it up, and slowly and gently presses it against the cracked notch of the rim. It fits perfectly, no small shards missing. She finally breathes into a sigh. It’s repairable, the damage will be invisible. But damage nonetheless. Finally, its long history of surviving her family pain has caught up with it.