Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Honey Pot

When my husband was growing up, his mother kept a blue pottery cache pot beside her stove to store her bacon grease. 

Honey, as her grandchildren called her, was a master at bacon cooking, even when she resorted to the microwave. Crisp and perfectly brown, her bacon was third only to her Honey-baked ham and her toast. Try as I might, I have never, in almost 30 years of marriage, been able to make those Honey things for my husband, just the right way. Though he does admit to my discovering — if not a better way — at least an as delicious (and healthier), way to make her okra and tomatoes. She was famous for that, too. 

When Honey died, her only son got the Honey pot, and for more than 10 years it has been the place where we hold not our bacon grease (there is little of that), but sweetener for our coffee.*

I love this pot. Each morning when I come down to make my coffee, it is there, pretty much the same color as my kitchen, and more than once I have felt Honey's presence as I take the top off to sweeten my coffee. **


Yesterday morning, I came down to breakfast and found this:


(Forgive me, grandchildren, sisters-in-law, for not letting you know earlier. I just couldn't tell you.)


I looked at my husband, his head bent not over the newspaper, but looking up at me, and all I could feel for him was heartbreak. He had been wiping out the residue from an empty pot, and it had slipped from his hand.


I hope he will forgive me for saying that his only comment was: I almost cried. 


Me, too. 


This was Honey's pot. 


"Can we keep it?" he asked. 


Of course we could. Even in shards.   I stood there, trying to figure out what we might do with it, then I began slowly placing the pieces back together. A puzzle, it might just work.


Maybe we can find some really good glue, he said.


That morning at work, I consulted my friend Meta, a potter. Her advice: Super Glue, with a caveat: pots were not meant to last, but when they break, they can be used in other things. Biblical, she said. Shards can become something new.


As much as I know that, Honey's son is not ready to relinquish his Honey pot, which is not yet in shards. Perhaps that's for the next generation, to make something else of her pot, when it is no longer useful for storing his memories. It is one of the few things around our house left of her, beside pictures. She used it every day. As long as he knew her. ––No, we are keeping this pot.


Years ago, when we told my husband's parents we were planning to marry, Honey took her engagement ring off her finger and handed it to me. It had been his grandmother's, she said, and this was the tradition.


I cherished that tradition. We had the ring reset, got married, and the small diamond was the perfect size for my finger. 


One Sunday some years later, as I sat in church next to an older woman who always shared our pew, I admired (ok, coveted)  her GIGANTIC diamond, imagining what my hand might look like with the same. That afternoon, as I grated cheese for a dip for a party we would attend, I looked down, and the diamond that had been my mother-in-law's (and my grandmother-in-law's) was missing. ( I never make that dip now without thinking of that moment.)


We searched the garbage disposal, the trash, the dip... the diamond was never found.  I was heartbroken, and could not possibly tell Honey what had happened.


A few months later, guilt got the best of me, and I did tell her the truth. She looked at me, reached out her hand and said: It is only a stone. It is not your marriage... A thing. Not so important as what it represents.


Still. 


We love the Honey pot. And though it is a thing, it is a symbol for my husband of all the best in his mom.  Our Honey Pot may be a little bit broken, yes, but if you turn her to her best side, no one would know. Aren't we all like that? Hiding, on the good side? But turn us to our broken side, and well, that's where the story begins.


* the photo was taken after the pot was broken
** it is Oxford Stoneware, made in the 50s... not 'valuable' per se, but irreplaceable for our family.