To do, what I do, one must have an affection for the imperfect. Things, like people, rarely travel far through time, unscathed. And when one sells imperfect things, one must be prepared to bring those items which others reject, back home. A client returned a beautiful clock to me last week. It was vintage, mahogany and lovely. It had lived in one family for all of its existence- mine. It had worked when I put it in the box to California, but I have to admit, my client wasn’t wrong to send it back. It was broken. I also plugged it in and it made a funny noise. Maybe not the noise the client described but a noise, nonetheless, that would be irritating to listen to. I had offered to let them keep it, and allow me to pay for it to be fully restored out in California. I worried about the effect of a return trip on that piece. I realize this is perhaps a godsend, because it can be fixed. I had sold it under its full value and could now sell it, restored, for its full value.
But, and with me there is always a “but”, because I ponder things. Perhaps too much. I do not adhere to Isaiah 43:18 “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past”. I spend a whole lot of time pondering things of the past and I couldn’t help but ponder on the notion that the clock was meant to come back to me, broken. I know the experience made me want to sell my clock collection privately only because I feel like shipping offers too many scary opportunities for the delicate clock interiors to get broken. The return also reminded me that with what I sell, lots of the items are imperfect, which is to be expected and is often just part of what is charming, but (there is always a “but”) I realize, I tend to keep all the broken things, believing that they would have value to no one but me, and not wanting to deal with the hassle of the people who will try to haggle me down on price over an imperfection on an otherwise irreplaceable item.
I think, perhaps, I prefer the broken things. It makes me start to wonder how a thing got broken in the first place. It shows me that the piece was part of a life, and life is messy. I, have learned the hard way, about breaking things. I have a very valuable mid century pottery collection. But for most of my life I did not know it was valuable. The potter had been my mother’s dear, dear friend, and I had just grown up with the pieces. I did not realize that I had broken coffee mugs that were worth an awful lot of money. I did not realize I had set up my dining room table as a ping pong table right next to a bank of open shelves holding thousands of dollars of irreplaceable ceramics. Once I did realize that, I put it all away, for fear of ruining an artists legacy with the boisterousness of my daily life. While I cannot bear the thought of one of those pieces breaking, I began realizing how much of what I have in my large collection is broken and beloved. I will keep those broken things.
I could live on the words of Alice Walker. I intend to tuck, “Be nobody’s darling” in my son’s graduation card today. I hope it helps him, as it helped me, to be ok with being some one who looks at life a little differently than other people. As I looked online, wanting to find the date the poem was published, I saw Alice Walker’s other poem, “I Keep Broken Things”. As I said, I have many broken things that I love. I may have thrown my own body (unintentionally) off my bike enough times to consider myself one of the broken things that I love. In pondering my broken things, I thought of this carved wooden woman’s face and elegant shoulders. I have known her all of my life, and would want to know everything about her, yet I have had a hard time figuring out her origin. Recently, I thought about whether I could truly fit her into my own décor at my home, and wondered if she should be sold. Then, I turned her over and realized that her shoulder had been broken and glued back on. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries in a year and now I see her broken shoulder? How did I not realize how perfect she is for me, personally, broken and all? I keep broken things. Maybe, I should see how many people out there want broken things too. Maybe broken isn’t such a problem – with people or things. Maybe we all should ponder that notion.