When a guest breaks something in our friend’s house, she tells them to make a wish. She says nine out of ten people say they wish they hadn’t broken the thing, and I say if ten people are running around your house breaking things you need to rethink your guest list. She tells me that’s not the point. Inviting them to make a wish turns breakage into a whole different kind of tradition – like wishing on a necklace clasp when it turns to the front, or driving through a yellow light.
I don’t do that. When I hear something break in my house I say “Was it the green one? My mom bought that when she was in high school. She kept an African violet in it when we were growing up.” Or whatever.
I don’t think of it as a guilt trip; I think of it as a eulogy. Having a mini Celebration of Life for a broken object is not something I do on purpose. It’s a reaction to the object’s life flashing before my eyes. Many of the things we have, especially the breakable ones, have rich and full lives during their tenure.
Don’t tell our things, but sometimes it’s a relief when they break. With great stories come great responsibility. And dust. I am a champion discarder, but there are some things I can’t bear to get rid of. You don’t realize how heavily a story weighs on you until it’s dispelled with a crash.
The last time we broke a piece of pottery (a favorite tea bowl that came from an art fair in Burlington, VT), I buried it in the yard to dissuade rats from tunneling into the chicken coop. I’m not sure if it’s working, but I do like to think of what future archaeologists will think when they find it.
If it surfaces, I hope the person who digs it up gives it a history – and makes a wish.