That old blue pitcher has a tiny crack in the side, right by the handle. I noticed it after my last move. I sat there on the kitchen floor cradling it in my hands, surrounded by cardboard and newspaper and packing tape, and blinked back the sudden tears that welled up in my eyes. That pitcher had been given to me by my grandmother, who got it from her grandmother. It had been lovingly handled, passed down through generations, and now it was my responsibility.
And I had let it get cracked.
Plenty of pitchers
I looked up at the countertop. There were dozens of pitchers there, all freshly unearthed from the moving boxes. There was my prized Fiestaware. There was the hand-blown glass pitcher that I picked up on a trip to the hills of Kentucky. There was a white ceramic pitcher, a little yellowed now, that was given to me for my wedding day, over thirty years ago.
There was the blue one, the little fat pitcher that was meant to hold cream, but usually held little bouquets of flowers instead. Then there was the tall one, the bright yellow delight that was perfect for holding the big bouquets that my husband sometimes brought home when I had had a long day. There were pitchers given to me by my kids, pitchers that friends handed over when they didn’t want them anymore, and the occasional gem I had picked up at the yard sales I loved to hit on Saturday mornings.
But none of them mattered as much as this pitcher in my hands.
A lovely thing
It was a lovely thing, with fine lines that made it clear at first glance that this was a pitcher worth something. During its heyday it was indeed an expensive item, possibly the most expensive thing in the kitchen of my grandmother’s grandmother, during that time when life was hard and modern conveniences were not even close to becoming a reality yet. That pitcher hadn’t been just for show, but had been used lovingly every day, to hold fresh water from the well or fresh milk from the cows or the occasional treat, the fresh-squeezed juices or cider created from the fruit trees on the old farm.
It was a faded blue, with what were once little flowers painted along the top and bottom by some enterprising artist. Those lines were almost entirely gone now, but the ghost of them remained. The bottom of the pitcher held the carving of someone’s name, too messy to make out, but surely the person who had created those fine lines with their talented hands.
I looked at the crack again. It was a hairline fracture, one that wasn’t bad yet but would get that way if I continued using the pitcher. I traced the crack with my fingertip, felt the small evidence of it under my touch.
Then I smiled.
That pitcher had been through generation after generation of use. It had been used for everything from milk to water to flowers. It had been passed down with loving hands, an heirloom that meant much more than the pitcher itself. It was an heirloom that spoke of the love that filled it, the careful attention that went into keeping it safe and secure for the next generation. As I traced the little crack, I realized that the long line of women in my family were probably laughing at me from somewhere in the universe, shaking their heads, gently teasing me about the tears over a hairline crack.
It wasn’t about the pitcher. It was about the love inside. It always was, and always will be.
So I got up from the kitchen floor — the new floor in my new house where a million new memories would be made — and I set the pitcher gently on the counter with the others. Then I went to the wide dining room table and cleared off the boxes, the papers, the mess of a move. When it was clear, I polished the table to a high shine. Then I went back to get the pitcher. I set it on the center of the table.
Then I called my husband. “Would you bring home some flowers on your way home from work? Lots of them. Enough to fill grandmother’s pitcher.”
Tonight, the pitcher will sit on the table while my little family sits down to dinner. None of them will notice the crack, but they will definitely notice the love that pours out of that pitcher that sits between us.
After all, that’s what a beautiful old heirloom is all about, isn’t it?