Published on March 10, 2012 on Sullivan Street Press
Chapter 12 MIDLIFE MAMBO
By Wickham Boyle
Wisdom in Anger: To Break or to Glue
Yesterday I received a package from France containing Moroccan red clay dishes that my daughter mailed me this summer from the Market in Aix en Provence. It was six months since she purchased them and, in fact, the box had traveled far and wide and most of the dishes were broken.
Before they broke
I unfolded the individual plates wrapped in newspaper to see the intricate painted patterns, the lotus blossoms, the geometric shapes, concentric circles all painted in deep ocher, ebony, orange, turquoise and vibrant azure representing sea and sky. I held each dish in my hand as I assessed whether it was immediately usable, could be saved, or should be discarded.
In the middle of my dish triage I thought of a friend, a fiery Cubana, who frequents garage sales to buy crates of ugly dishes. She squirrels these ceramic disasters away in her Seattle garage and then breaks the dishes when she’s in a rage. Felicia goes to her cartons and crashes the plates onto the driveway until her anger subsides. I love this idea and am jealous of her ability to own her fury and still devise a safe, cheap way to assuage her tempestuous moods.
As I sat thinking about whether I could glue the beautiful parrot green dish back together with five minute epoxy on a bed of clay carefully holding it in place until the bonding took hold, I wondered if I shouldn’t maybe just smash them all on my downtown street after the kids were asleep and my husband was ensconced watching Jay Leno.
I sat on the floor debating the merits of putting something together, versus releasing its power and mine through an act of destruction.
I realized I am a gluer. I hoard shards of relationships, pottery, and life and find a way to piece them back together. I held on to a relationship with the biological father of my children for decades even after the abuse and neglect had begun to announce itself to my toddlers. I have a poem written by my daughter, then fifteen, on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday; it reads:
“ I love you because you left.
Broken, but you remembered to save the pieces.
Because we all glued each other back together.”
It recalls the trauma when I jettisoned my nearly 20-year relationship with her father after gluing, salvaging, and wishing it would get better for far too long. Some things really should be smashed.
I tend to be too tenacious. I store and repair when I might be better healed by pitching, crushing, tossing, and cutting the ties. I am a believer that careful glue and stitches in time, dinners cooked with love and hands held can mend anything.
I now have cluttered my dining room table with broken dishes, cracked cous cous bowls tipped on their sides no longer capable of holding succulent chicken and yellow broth, floating carrots, waiting for fluffy grains of Moroccan pasta. Unlike Felicia, I can’t envision myself waiting until I become angry enough to break dishes into cosmic dust, going to the storage closet, fetching out the correct dose of dishes needed to assuage my anger. How do I minister to myself? Do I call Felicia and ask how many dishes for a broken heart, a rejected story, or an entire novel? Will Felicia respond, “Smash two cartons and call me in the morning?” And if I take these dishes down to the street, will I be arrested for disturbing the peace? Suppose someone gets a flat tire in the February freeze from my dish rage. Am I then responsible for changing it?
I yearn to learn when to admit defeat and toss the broken pieces in the trash. Perhaps with even more time that too will happen. But for today I have set up a workshop, and in the quiet of a late January snowstorm, I am carefully, one dish at a time, recreating the splendor that was intended by some Moroccan potter on a Marrakech morning.