Bud Vase

Packing is interrupted by the discovery — once again — of things from my life, or my kids’ lives. We’ve only lived in this location five years, and our belongings are dotted with pieces of history.


This vase was given to me when one of my children was born. The doctor who delivered my babies always had a single rose delivered to his new moms, so I had two of these vases. One broke over the years. It was a sweet gesture by that doctor, simple and elegant, a nod of welcome to a new phase in the mother’s life. I wonder if he gave two roses to mothers of twins.

This bud vase has stayed intact in my life for 27 years, assuming it came with the delivery of my oldest child. It’s a piece of delicate glass that’s traveled through several moves, too many to count, and has been used every summer for lily-of-the-valley bouquets and single daisies on shortened stems. It’s useful, yes, but it also serves as a meditation object for me on my life as a mother. This slender vase reminds me of the tentative beginning of my motherhood, fragile and vulnerable and scared. That moment of my own birth into my new self, the glass occluded then but clear now.

Were I to design a vase now to represent my life as a mother from this vantage point, it would look different. There would be room for more than one bloom, its base would be rounder and more stable, and the glass might well be rose-colored. Perhaps the side would be stamped with an emblem reflecting our family, a five-headed bouquet of vastly different flowers, a tiger lily for Matt and sweetheart roses for Sophia and a sunflower for Thomas, some yucca for Tim and my own peony, surrounded by a thick circle. It would be a wild, ill-matched bouquet, like us. Perhaps there would be a band running along the bottom with the names of my children, and must include the child to whom I didn’t give birth and so I did not receive a flower. But being a mother to Thomas — that motherhood came hard-fought and joyfully won.

And at the bottom of the vase, in the sturdiest, most stable part would be my Tim, whose unflagging dependability and support made that motherhood flourish. We have a good family, the five of us, and I’d want everyone together if only in spirit, in symbol.

There will be more added to the family, I’m sure. Spouses and partners, children and grandchildren. Friends and in-laws. And we’ll make room. These lives will expand and embrace more love. And should that love lead to new babies, maybe I’ll offer each new parent their own bud vase, a way to remember their brief moment of perfect joy.


All the Old Familiar Places

As I finished vacuuming our tiny apartment, backing into the room where the vacuum is parked, I admired the pleasing lines in the carpet. I remembered the story my farmer friend told me about when she was much younger and garnered great pleasure from vacuuming herself out onto the deck, where she would sit and listen to opera booming from the stereo inside.

Every time I vacuum I think of that story and smile.

Being so far away from the people who comprise most of my memory’s videotape, the stories that connect me to the people I’ve known, is strange. My brain tends to retain happy memories, sweet attachments to people who added a brick or several to my edifice.

Most of these recollections are task specific, triggers from my hands that run up to a tender spot in my brain where one of you has left an indentation. WorryStone

My sister, for example, comes to mind whenever I’m making the bed. I don’t play “pillow sandwich” anymore, but I do think about it. Every day.

My oldest friend Krista makes an appearance whenever I make pancakes. It was at her house after sleepovers that I learned the art of watching for the right amount and quality of bubbles along the edge to ascertain just the right time to flip it.

And when I squeegee the shower stall, I remember Krista’s mom, who (still) calls me Megery and insisted on this practice after each of us showered. In my house, such a thing was unheard of; showers were supposed to be wet, that’s how they were designed. When I was in charge of cleaning my own house, I realized just how intelligent it is to have each person wipe down the shower after use.

The smell of fresh laundry always makes me think of my friend Kelly, the first person I knew who used laundry softener. Yes, I lived under a rock.

Not all of the recollections are cleaning related, I promise.

The director of the School of Music changed the way I write the number “2”. He couldn’t read my numbers, and I was so chagrined that I corrected the problem immediately. Thank you, Dr. Weiss, for improving my legibility.

I learned the critical skill of preparing envelopes for stuffing from Lena. I don’t stuff envelopes very often, but when I do, I think of her.

Gillian taught me to appreciate green beans cooked with onions, something I enjoy particularly every summer, with fresh-picked green beans.

From Kathy, I learned to shorten the length of thread I use in hand sewing, to reduce the chance of tangles. I sew quite a bit these days, and use this handy tip a lot. And think of Kathy.

Adriana comes to mind whenever I hear the word “focus”, and whenever I have to plant my feet and advocate for positive changes at work.

Aaron helped me relax about contentious work situations, with his oft repeated and deeply held belief that “it’s just a job.”

As I learn new tasks, I add a new cast of characters to my memory’s news reel. But that doesn’t stop the old ones from playing. It’s a pretty crowded place inside my brain.

Each of these remembered moments is a portal into bigger memories. Sometimes I choose to wander around those mental halls for a while, but most of the time I don’t. I just recognize they’re still there, a nod to a former time in my life, and I move along with my day.

To be sure, these moments are not the *only* times I think of people who are dear to me, they’re just the predictable times. How could I attach just one memory to a friend who was by my side every day for seven years?

But when I say “I was thinking of you”, I mean it. For a second or for a prolonged rumination period, I keep these flashbacks close, comfort objects to remind me of where I’ve been. Of who I’ve been. I’m a different “who” now, but you’re all part of it.

Thinking of you,