Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: BROKEN (12/06/18)
By Jennifer Woodley
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‘Hmm...maybe this one’ I suggested, selecting a small green-toned flower vase. ‘What do you think?’
‘Yes, that will do well for my demonstration.’ She answered cryptically.
‘What do you mean by that?’ I asked, laughing at her response. Ever since arriving at our home on a two month student exchange, Misaki was constantly surprising me. For a girl of just fourteen years, she was full of wisdom, knowledge and understanding about issues that many teenagers wouldn't ever contemplate.
‘Well, you've asked me about the struggles that I've had at home, and this vase will tell the story better than I can.’ She smiled warmly and handed the money to the elderly gentleman sitting behind the counter.
Once I had settled my younger children in bed that evening, Misaki beckoned me onto the back verandah. The air was warm, still and fragrant from the gardenias nearby. Sinking into one of our outdoor chairs, I noticed an assortment of small tubes and brushes arranged neatly on the table and of course the flower vase amidst them.
Picking up the vase, she turned to me and said gently, ‘Mrs Mason, in Japan we practice an ancient art called Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi. It is the art of repairing broken pottery with a gold, silver or platinum lacquer. When restored, beautiful seams of color glint in the cracks of the once broken pottery, giving it a unique appearance. In fact, the piece becomes more beautiful because of its brokenness.’ Her hushed voice fell softly like gentle droplets of cool rain sinking into the soil.
I relaxed into the chair, feeling my frame grow heavy and the rush of the day’s activities slip away. All I wanted to do now was listen and let the weight of her words sink slowly into my heart, lulling me into a peaceful state.
And then suddenly, abruptly, Misaki held the vase high and dropped it. Slithers of pottery smashed in a crashing moment all about us. I jolted to attention, alarmed by the severity of her action.
‘Don’t be upset Mrs Mason’ she said, and then bending down, Misaki gathered the remnants together in a dustpan and tipped them carefully onto the table. She spoke no other words, but started piecing the pottery together until she had skilfully reshaped the vase into its original design.
Then Misaki began her heartbreaking story. ‘My father was an alcoholic. He worked hard every day and drank hard every night. Sometimes in the evening, in a drunken rage, he would beat my mother, while my brother and I hid in fear, hoping that he would not find us. We were scared for our mother and ourselves, knowing that he was capable of killing us if wanted to. And then one day, unexpectedly, he never came home from work. He disappeared. And we still don’t know where he is, or if he is. We were broken with grief and abandonment.’
Slowly, Misaki began to remove the caps from a few tubes and squeeze the thick, glistening paste onto a plate.
‘We could have chosen to ignore or deny our brokenness. To wish them away, to be full of regret and live in the land of ‘if only.’ We could have chosen to disguise our cracks by putting on false faces, covering up with lies or distracting ourselves with busyness. But our family chose to confront our brokenness and ask God to heal us.’
Picking up a paintbrush, Misaki swirled golden lacquer onto the fibers, and carefully stroked it along the cracks in the broken vase.
‘We began to face our brokenness by admitting our hurt, our pain and our sense of abandonment. It felt good to do that. We asked God to help us forgive dad for his abuse and neglect. And though it was hard, Mrs Mason, that was good too. And we asked God for courage. We needed to face our neighbors, their insinuations and their gossipy questions. And we needed God’s strength to unite together and work to help mum pay the bills. Like this vase, we have been broken, but made whole again.’
Misaki admired her handiwork. The vase shone and so did her face.
‘See? The golden lacquer has turned this vase into a beautiful piece more magnificent that its original form. Don’t you agree?’
Yes, I did.
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