Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Last night I broke the butter dish.  It was after dinner and it slipped from my hands to the floor as I was cleaning it off, and it broke into twenty pieces.  It was not the first time I had broken this butter dish; the handle on it had broken off so many times that the glue that held it in place was becoming part of the handle itself.  But this time, the butter dish was lost.  It could not be repaired.

My son was in the kitchen when the tragedy unfolded, and came over as I picked up the shards that had fallen into the dishwasher, and he watched me put the pieces into the garbage can.  He asked questions.  “What happened?” “Did you get hurt?” “Can you fix it?” “Will we get a new one?” “Have you done this before?” “Is it okay?”

I answered his questions patiently.  I dropped the butter dish.  I did not get hurt.  It cannot be fixed.  We will have to get a new one.  I have broken things before.  It is okay.

It is okay.  The loss of the butter dish was just that; it was not a throwaway item (hence the multiple repairs I had made to the handle), but we can get a new one and it is not the end of the world that this one was broken.  It is unfortunate, because this was a wedding gift, unfortunate because the replacement will not be exactly the same.  My son knew how to ask “Is it okay?” because he knows that when something breaks, we are sad.  We want the item to be whole again.  He knows how it feels to lose something.  But It is okay.  I have said this a thousand times as a response to my children crying over spilled milk, broken toys, hurt feelings.  It is okay.  Usually I say this to my kids as an attempt to comfort over the loss.  It is okay, it will be better.  You will feel better than you do right now.

I have broken more valuable things before.  Objects are the least of these.  The big things like feelings, spirits, relationships, trust – these things, like my butter dish, can never be repaired.  The effort to fix may be valiant, but the repairs bear remnants like old glue.  These remnants cannot be erased, and if broken again, these precious things may never again hold a repair.  It will be okay, but it will be irretrievably broken.  This is what I wish I could tell my son, and have him understand instantly.  I don’t want him to know the sadness that comes from breaking something that cannot be fixed, something so valuable that no effort surpasses its loss.

But this is life, and he will break things.  It will be okay, but it will never be the same. 


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