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February 28, 2006
It was my Princess Plate, my favorite of favorite plates when I was little: white bone china with a cobalt blue border, encrusted with enchanting lacy raised silver filigree, fairy-delicate. It was my grandmother's and then it was my mother's and now it is mine. Just as they did, I used to serve walnut cookies on it at Christmas, white as snowballs in their powdered-sugar coats. I still think it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

How did I break it? In a move? I think so, but I'm not sure now. I do know that I glued it together myself, and that I should have waited for Q: my mend is clumsy, and you can see discolored glue along the scar. That wouldn't be the case if he had done it. Now it hangs in a row of other plates, along the top of the kitchen cabinets, unusable anymore for serving food.

A beautiful thing. A princess plate for a little girl. The pride of a young woman's hospitality, an homage to beloved foremothers, an heirloom for my daughters. And now? A broken dish, scarred across its lovely face with the clear evidence of my impatience, my refusal to admit that there might be some things I don't do well.

And infinitely more valuable to me because of that scar, whatever the Antiques Road Show people would think of it: it reminds me of the whole of my life, not just the shiny parts. Life is not a museum. The project of maintaining our effects "just as they were" is a doomed attempt to hang onto the past -- embalming it, in a way. Nothing remains "as it was." The more emotional energy one puts into struggling to change that, the less one has for more productive uses. There is enough sorrow in life already; we don't need to court more by trying to keep the past under glass in the present.

Besides, God is not very active in the desperate human attempt to retain in the past, to keep it alive and unchanged at all costs -- on life support, if need be. God is active in the triumph over adversity of which sheer survival consists. Who would we be without our scars? People who never did a damn thing that would muss our hair. People who were afraid of time's passing and so chose not to live, in order never to die. And, in the end, cracked or not, we would die anyway.

Use your good things. Remember the dear ones they call to mind. Fix them if they break, and do a better job than I did on my fairy plate. But never think that you keep sorrow away by clinging to them, or that you will bring it closer by the loss of them.
Copyright © 2022 Barbara Crafton
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