I wrote this in response to Sadje’s What Do You See prompt, which took my fancy this week when she asked us to write the image below. It’s about five minutes.
Bought cheaply while on vacation, they were of little value, but to Maudie, they were priceless. Found unexpectedly, on her honeymoon, in a dustyantique shop in the quaint seaside town of La Castella, Maudie had bought them on a whim, attracted by the earthy colours, the matching pair a symbol of her new marriage to George.
1960. Trips abroad were rare. So, when George had suggested a honeymoon in Calabria, Maudie had giddily agreed in a trice. And, forever after, the vases had been a constant reminder of that special vacation. For despite them returning to the region repeatedly, observing the coastline develop as the area became more commercialised, no visit came close to that unspoilt first experience.
Coming back to their new home, the vases had been given pride of place, first on Maudie’s mantlepiece, then, as her life improved, in an ornate, lighted display cabinet. Nobody was allowed to touch, not even when the children arrived (especially not the children), although the tired-looking Maudie would happily stroke her long, dark hair, sparkling already with flecks of grey, point them out and proudly confide to each how she had successfully bartered with the vendor. “Paid next to nothing for them”, she would admit, with a knowing wink. They had even survived three house moves, and were the centrepiece of her display, in good times and better.
Maudie had even found a use for the vases. In 2005, when George succumbed after a heroic, eighteen-month battle with cancer, she had stored his ashes in one. She could not imagine being without him, so George became a secret resident in the front room, and they still made those important decisions together.
Maudie had gone on, even enduring the COVID pandemic, spending months in virtual isolation. One or other of the children leaving bags of food by her front door, which she would meticulously wipe with disinfectant, until finally she was told that it was safe to venture out. She had even been able to celebrate Christmas with her eldest daughter, the first time she had seen many of the family in a year. It was at that celebration that she herself caught COVID and, at eighty years of age, she was gone three weeks later. More than a thousand other people died that same day.
With none of the three able to take on a houseful of heirlooms, they had cherry-picked their mementoes and the task fell to the eldest, Robert, to clear and sell the house. At that time, with nobody left to appreciate their contents, like Maudie and George, the two vases were finally separated. During the clearance, one was dropped. An occupational hazard. The mover’s only reaction, “Bugger! Hey Frankie? Can you bring the brush out of the van? This one had some muck in it.” But the remaining vase was attractive enough; it might still fetch something.
“Alright, I’ll be in in a minute”, answered the woman. Her husband had just boiled the kettle, but she wanted to do this first. She knew that vase was a good buy the second she saw it last Sunday, and it was ideal for the bunch of tulips they had just bought alongside their other groceries.
Snap, snap, and the job was done.
Fetching the vase back inside, her husband was also just entering the lounge, a cup of tea in each hand.
“I just wanted to take a quick photo of those flowers. I put them in that vase I picked up at the car boot. Those tulips look gorgeous in it.” And, placing it down by the hearth, she pushed her phone at the man. “See? Don’t they brighten up the room? That vase wasn’t bad, was it, for a bit of old tat?”
A very melancholy piece, I know. One of the things which upset me most after my parents’ deaths was clearing out the house, how treasures which were invaluable to them got tossed onto the junk heap.
It has to be so – none of us has the room to just absorb their memories into our own spaces – but is sad nonetheless.