“What do I get for this? I said & the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters & clock radios & a basketball signed by Michael Jordan & I said, But this is just stuff & the angel smiled at me & swallowed me in her arms. I’m so glad you said that, she whispered to me. I knew you still had a chance.” (~from Story People by Brian Andreas)
I would have thought I’d have gotten upset. Angry even.
A plate, all red and blue and paisley. Just purchased a couple months ago. I was so excited to buy those new plates, to find something Italian and beautiful for my kitchen.
But there it lay. One plate. In 4 pieces surrounded by tiny jagged shards. The boys sat in the living room, bowed heads. Brian stood between them.
I had heard a ruckus while I was tucking Bella in bed for nap. I knew the boys were fighting. They were supposed to be emptying the dishwasher, earning some money to buy more Lego sets.
Now I stood, waiting. Hearing Bri’s voice, but the words not registering. Suddenly, Bear ran to me, eyes spilling over, voice shaking and breaking, “I’m so sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry I broke your plate.” His arms went around my neck and his little body shuddered. I held him for a long time, saying nothing.
I didn’t know anything about the argument (although I later learned the plate breaking wasn’t actually caused by the argument). I didn’t know how Brian broke it up. I didn’t know what words were spoken. Until that moment, I didn’t know who had dropped it. And the sinking feeling in my stomach when I saw the broken plate was no match for the ache when I saw my Bear’s face.
“It’s okay, Bear. It’s only a plate.” We spent the next little while rocking, talking, snuggling.
Yes, it’s only a plate. It’s only stuff.
Stuff breaks. Stuff chips. Stuff fades. Stuff wears.
So do people.
And later that night, I sat in Bri’s arms and cried. Cried over the agony on Bear’s face. Cried over the pain that life will bring him. Cried over his tender spirit that moved, unprompted, to ask for forgiveness. Cried because I couldn’t put the plate back together and make it all okay for him. Cried because some days I can’t bear to watch them grow and learn and mess up and hurt. Cried over a little boy and a broken plate.
I will to do everything I can to keep my Bear from turning into broken pieces surrounded by jagged shards of life.
That plate is nothing.
He is everything.