Karen loves fresh cut flowers. She loves their beauty. She loves their scents.
Karen has a lot of vases for holding her fresh cut flowers. She keeps her most precious vases on a shelf for display and pulls the ones appropriate to the length and colors of the flowers she cuts from the beds all around her home. She has vases long and squat. She has vases of crystal and pottered. She has cheap vases with charm and expensive vases of beauty. Some are pristine, others chipped and worn but with character.
Everyone who knows Karen knows about the flowers. Everyone who knows her knows about her vases.
The package from her mother arrived a few days before Karen’s birthday. She opened it. It was filled with shattered glass. She imagined it had been a vase. Not so strangely, it had been sent barely wrapped.
Karen called her mother to thank her for the gift, even though it was useless. She said the vase must have been damaged in transit. Without much surprise, her mother said it must have. She said that Karen might be able to glue the pieces back together again, at least.
Karen explained it wasn’t just a few big pieces. She explained how it came completely shattered. There were hundreds of pieces.
Her mother said it would be a shame if she didn’t try to fix it. It had been a lovely vase, after all. She suggested it might be a fun project for her lonely daughter.
Karen said she probably wouldn’t have the time. She had better things to do than invest that much of her life into something of such minor value.
Her mother pleaded, telling Karen to not throw it away. It was a gift from her. And, if Karen loved her, she should want to put it back together.
Karen said if it was so precious, her mother should have packed it better. Karen said it wasn’t her fault. Karen said maybe she’d try putting it back together, but she couldn’t promise.
Then she suggested sending the pieces back to her mother to repair, but her mother was, predictably, filled with even more excuses than Karen.
The next day her mother called to ask about the vase. And every day after that she called or texted or e-mailed to see how much progress Karen had made on repairing the vase. Eventually, Karen quit returning her calls and texts and emails. Her mother’s last voicemail said, “I’m very disappointed.”
The next year Karen got a package from her sister. She opened it. It was a nice blue, ceramic vase. She went outside and cut some flowers. She filled the vase with water and some of her fresh cut flowers. In a few minutes she heard dripping. There was a puddle of water on the counter that was dripping onto the carpet.
Karen removed the flowers and poured out the water. She examined the vase. It had a hairline crack all the way down the side. It was cracked on the bottom too.
She called to thank her sister for the vase. She told her that, unfortunately, it was cracked, even though the packing had looked good. She told her sister it was a lovely looking vase and how excited she’d been to receive it. She told her she’d gone outside immediately to cut some flowers and filled it and how, shortly after, she noticed the puddle and the damage.
Her sister said she knew it was cracked. But it was a pretty vase and she thought Karen might be able to repair it. Karen said maybe. But, truth be told, it wasn’t such a great vase that she imagined the repair being worth it. It was a nice enough vase but not terribly lovely.
Karen put her sister’s empty vase on the shelf with all the others. It was, at least, good enough for display. Her sister called a few weeks later to find out if she’d fixed it. Karen said, “Not yet.”
The day after receiving her sister’s gift, Karen’s best friend Maggie called to wish her a happy birthday. Karen told her friend about last year and this year’s broken vases.
Karen began to cry.
Her friend understood.
A few days later, another package arrived. It was a box addressed from Maggie. Karen opened the box.
The gift was carefully wrapped and wadded in packing paper. Karen removed layer after layer. It was an old vase with twine tied around the neck, a few chips and nicks around the rim, and the paint had rubbed off in places. It was perfect.
The card inside read: found this at the goodwill. seemed to have you name written all over it. a little worn but tested. no leaks. happy birthday. maggie.
Delighted, Karen filled the vase with water and, true to Maggie’s word, it didn’t leak. Karen went outside and cut some roses. She went back inside and filled the vase with her beautiful roses.
The roses stayed fresh for a few days. After that, Karen went outside and cut some coneflowers and put them in the vase.
She kept that vase out for a long time that year, replacing the old with new, fresh cut flowers. And for a long time the year after that and for many years thereafter, she kept it out. And with each arrangement of her fresh cut flowers she replaced, Karen thought of her friend Maggie and how lovely a friend she’d always been.