The Vase

The old vase sat by our boarded up fireplace in the living room when I was a boy. We used to keep matches in it so they would be close by when we needed to light the gas space heater that sat on the hearth.

My father had plugged up all the fireplaces in the old farmhouse long before I was born and switched over to butane… a precursor to propane, for heat. Cutting wood was not one of his favorite chores.

My mother had bought the vase at the local Walker Chain Store on Main Street. That was where she had worked before they had married. I remember her telling me the old Hull Pottery pots and vases could be had for as little as a quarter. The large old vase fetched a whopping $2.95 back then.

I have seen similar vases sell at auction around here for as much as $600. Times have changed, haven’t they?

Well, that old vase is not worth much monetarily. Today it is covered with cracks from being knocked over and broken many times over the past sixty six years. That’s how long my parents would have been married come December 4th. I find that hard to believe.

It was sitting by that fireplace not long after my father brought his bride home at the end of World War II. It was still there on many cold winter mornings as my mother or father reached down inside of it fumbling for a match to light the heater to keep their first born child warm in that cold farmhouse.

It was like many things that sit in a room and is hardly noticed by folks walking by it everyday. We became so accustomed to it being there it was invisible to us. We took it for granted.

From its perch by the fireplace it watched over the living room and dining room as we gathered together for Thanksgiving dinners. It was there each year as we dragged the Christmas tree in from the front porch and it was there when Easter rolled around, too.

It was a favorite place to hide Easter eggs when my brothers and I had to play inside on rainy Sundays.

When Mother broke up housekeeping and moved to Jackson the old vase went with her. Once again it stood sentinel by her fireplace on Cedarhurst Drive. It was watching over her like a faithful servant.

When my children came along it was there as I brought them through her door for the very first time. Little by little I began to notice it more and more as my girls staggered by it learning to walk. I just knew one of my girls would knock it over and shatter it into a zillion pieces. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

But, one time when I went down to Mississippi to visit Mother I noticed the old vase was no longer standing by the fireplace and she informed me a child she had been babysitting knocked it over and it was badly broken. She had saved the pieces and wondered if I might be able to glue it back together.

At first I thought it was hopeless. Each time I put glue on a piece and stuck it back in place the broken part would just slide right back out and fall on the table. I found myself gluing and hold each piece in place until it dried enough to stay put. Over the course of that weekend I managed to get it all back together.

Little did I know it, but that would not be the only time I was to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. She did a lot of baby sitting.

After being broken several times there were tiny slivers that were missing after she gathered up the pieces and saved them for my next visit. The old vase was full of what I like to call character.

Mother passed away 13 years ago this coming New Year’s Eve. The old vase was sitting not far from her chair when she closed her eyes and went to sleep for the last time. It was still there, still watching over her.

A few weeks after the funeral my brothers and I gathered together to go through things as we emptied out her home on Cedarhurst. No one argued over the material possessions she had left behind.

“Here, you take this.”

“You take that.”

“Your children could use this table.”

Or, “Wouldn’t you like to have the old bedroom suite?” was heard as we sorted through her worldly possessions. She would have been proud of her boys. There were no arguments over anything.

Then my sister-in-law picked up the old, broken vase by the fireplace and said, “What will we ever do with this old thing. It is so broken up I don’t think anyone would ever want it.”

I looked over and said, “If no one wants it I would like to have it.” Nobody else wanted it. After all it was just an old broken vase and it appeared to be worthless.

I wrapped it up in some old clothes and packed it away carefully. I knew it wasn’t worth anything, but I had glued that thing back together so many times I wasn’t about to let anyone throw it away. I had grown fond of it over the years.

When I returned home to Kentucky I unwrapped it and put it in our living room up on a bookshelf. There it sat until we moved to our home on Harting Ridge. For a few years it sat in the foyer until we were blessed with grandchildren and I became afraid it would be broken to smithereens. I did the unspeakable. I moved it into a room where I felt it would survive a little longer. I’m not as brave as my mother.

I guess the old vase is a little bit like me… not worth a lot, been broken a few times and it has become more fragile with age. But, it is loved and it is full of memories.

So, for a day while the grandkids are away I’m going to set it out by the fireplace and we’ll stare at each other for a little while. I’ll remember my newlywed parents of sixty-six years ago. I’ll think about all the Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters it watched over me when I was a kid.

Yeah, I think we’ll just sit by the fireplace for a while and give thanks for some wonderful memories. Even with all of its cracks the old vase still holds a lot of them.

Rick Algood
December 25th, 2011


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