This is a short story about a crystal pitcher that was given to me by my mother-in-law.
|THE ANTIQUE PITCHER
The crystal is cracked;
the edges are chipped - but it's
so special to me.
I love cut crystal and I have a lot of it. Ummm... I have a LOT of it. I have a china cabinet that I had so packed that you couldn’t tell one piece from another, so not too long ago I cleaned it out and packed up at least half of it. What I want to do is rotate the pieces, instead of having everything in there at the same time. I enjoy it more now. I can stop and look and actually see what the different pieces are. When I rotate them I think it will feel like I have a whole new collection.
One piece that won’t get rotated, though, is the antique cut-glass pitcher my mother-in-law gave me. It is incredibly beautiful, even though it has a hairline crack down the side, and there are a few small chips on the top. You really can’t see the flaws, and I can’t use it because it would leak, but it is still beautiful as a display piece. What is more beautiful, though, is the story of how I got it. Really, how my mother-in-law got it.
She grew up in New Jersey, close to New York City, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood. One of her neighbors was from Germany, and she had brought this pitcher with her when she immigrated to here. The woman was alone. She had never had children, and her husband had passed away. My mother-in-law was a very, very good person. When her German neighbor became too elderly and frail to be able to get around, my mother-in-law would run errands for her - bring her groceries, help her with her housekeeping, things like that. When the German woman became quite ill, and realized her end was near, she thanked my mother-in-law for all her help by giving her the crystal pitcher, her most prized possession. The wear on it was already there, but not the crack. That happened when my mother-in-law was washing it, and rinsed it with water that was too hot. That was something that really upset her, but at least it was not broken.
I was visiting with her one day, and she brought the pitcher out to show me. She didn’t have it displayed - she had a very modest home, and it was packed away in her attic. When I saw it, I thought it was just beautiful. I admired it, and then she packed it up and put it back in the attic. Some time later I was visiting with her again, and she brought out the pitcher and gave it to me. I was so flattered. She had tears in her eyes when she passed it over to me, and it is something I cherish.
She’s gone now, and her last years were very difficult. She didn’t know me anymore - she didn’t even know her own sons, but she got to stay in her own home until the end. She had a caregiver during the week, and my husband and his brother would take turns staying with her on the weekends. One weekend I went up with my husband to stay with her. We got her dressed for bed, and I asked her if she would like to look through her photo albums. We sat on the couch and started looking through her albums, mostly the ones of her when she was young in New Jersey. I recall pointing to the picture of a young woman and asking her if she knew who that was, and she exclaimed delightedly “That me!”. We looked through the albums for a long time, and she suddenly pointed to an elderly woman and said “That’s her! That’s the woman that gave me the pitcher!” I don’t know if she knew who I was then, but she definitely knew who that was.
She passed away the next day. I want to think that I helped her have a few minutes where she became herself again before she left. I loved her, and I miss her, and that’s why that pitcher will never get rotated.