BlogHerWriters last October, I brought E a snow globe from New York.
I bought it in the airport, rushing to catch my flight. My 48 hours in Manhattan had been an absolute whirlwind; I'd barely had time to eat or sleep, let alone shop for souvenirs. But I knew exactly what I wanted, and sure enough the Hudson News next to my departure gate had a small display of snow globes next to the candy rack.
It had a pink base and inside, tiny snowflakes swirled around tiny New York things: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, a yellow taxicab.
She loved it. I loved it almost as much as she did.
"It's delicate," I whispered as she dipped it upside down again and again to watch the swirling flakes.
"I know," she whispered back. "I'll keep it safe, Mommy, I promise. I love it so much."
She must have sensed how much I loved the snow globe too--a reminder of the city I love more than any other. I've never told E that my soul lives forever in New York City...but sometimes she understands things way bigger than she should be able to just by looking at my face.
The snow globe moved around. Sometimes E wanted it to live on her bookshelf. Sometimes, she carried it to my desk "So we can both love it, Mommy." Sometimes I'd find it in the kitchen next to her latest bunch of wildflowers. I reminded her constantly to be careful with it. That it was fragile, made of glass. That if she was too rough with her snow globe, it would break.
This morning, I heard a loud crash while I was upstairs getting dressed.
"E, what was that?" I called down.
Then, "It was just...something, Mom."
And then hysterics.
I came down and there it was, her New York snow globe, in pieces on the floor. E was inconsolable, kneeling above it as though if she stayed there and cried hard enough, it would piece itself together and float back into her palm.
My first instinct was to reprimand her. How many times had I told her to be careful? Shouldn't this be a teaching moment, a lesson in taking care of belongings? Shouldn't I just clean up the mess and let her mourn the result of her actions? Remind her that things are just things and tell her she should be lucky she's healthy with a roof over her head and plenty of other toys to play with?
But as she sobbed, my mind flashed back to another moment, just weeks ago, when I sobbed because I lost something precious to me. Something irreplaceable. Something that I should have been more careful with. She had crawled into my lap that day, wrapped her skinny arms around my neck, and said "I'm sorry you lost your ring, Mommy. It was a really beautiful ring."
And then I had one of those moments--those what kind of mother do I want to be? moments. Where I stood at a crossroads of actions to choose.
She looked at me, afraid, waiting for my angry words, sorrow transforming her face into one I barely recognized.
The broken snow globe lay on the floor between us.
I swallowed the I told you sos and the You need to be more carefuls on my lips. I pulled her into my lap and held her tight. I wrapped my arms around her neck.
"I know you didn't mean to break it," I said into her sweet dark hair.
"I just...want...it...back," she cried, her body shuddering. She looked at the shards of glass, the bits of fake snow swimming in a pool of water on the living room floor, and broke down again. "I want to hold it again. Please, Mommy, I want to hold it again."
Oh, baby girl, I know you do. I know just how it feels to want something back that badly. The desperate desire to reverse time until it's the moment right before the bad thing happened. To have all the broken pieces be back together again.
My life, and my parenting, is all about gratitude. Yes, we should be grateful for our lives, and our health, and the people we love. We should understand that things are just things.
But sometimes we love things anyway. And it hurts like hell when we lose them.
Even if it was our fault. Even if we should have been more careful.
Today it was a snow globe.
Sometimes, things that don't seem so fragile will still shatter. Things that aren't things, at all.
Sometimes, without meaning to, we break what matters most:
Friendships. Relationships. Dreams.
In those after moments, when we're on our knees wishing we could go back in time and undo what we've done, the best thing we can hope for is that someone will wrap their arms around us, and hold on tight, and help us pick up the broken pieces.