For me the year 2001 was a year of phenomenal highs and lows, of milestones and setbacks. I started the year by getting fired from my first “real” job. This was a devastating blow in the year in which my husband and I were to be married. I compensated by taking on two jobs after two crippling months on unemployment.
After months of stressful wedding-planning, Mark and I were married on August 18, a beautiful day that was upon us and then gone before we knew it. We then spent a week-long honeymoon eating, sleeping, and strolling the streets of Quebec City. When we returned home, my part-time job at the university transitioned into the fulfilling career that I have today. The pieces truly fell together, and for the first time in so long, it seemed that so many stressors were behind us.
On December 15 of that year, my best friend and I went Christmas shopping together. I wanted to find Mark an amazing gift to commemorate our first Christmas as a married couple.
After wandering around the mall for a bit, my friend and I went downtown to a local store full of gorgeous furniture, decorative objects, and pottery. It did not take long for me to spot this remarkable vase, which seemed to call to me from it’s shelf.
I should mention that one trait that endeared my husband to me was his love of nature and gardening. Fiddling around with his bonsai trees, planting bulbs, clipping shrubs, and bringing blossoms inside to create beautiful arrangements…these are all things that made me love him.
A quick price check revealed that after purchasing this gift, I would be finished Christmas shopping for my husband. I made the purchase and had the vase gift wrapped. I brought it home and placed it on the floor in our living room.
An evening out with friends, dinner and drinks followed. I was nearly asleep in the passenger seat as we rolled into the driveway at 1:30 in the morning when I heard my husband gasp and say “Oh my god, there’s a fire!” I jerked awake to see the flames of our new dining room table, a wedding gift from my dad, on fire and falling through a hole which it had burnt in the floor of our house. The car was barely at a stop before we leapt out, circling the house and looking for a way in.
A series of painful memories follow: The doorknob too hot to touch. Me crying and praying. The firetruck arriving. Mark’s parents. My father. Mark holding the lifeless body of one of our cats and sobbing.
A distressing realization that I made late that night was that the sky was getting lighter and that the sun would soon come up. Even after our traumatic night, the sun would rise and cast harsh sunlight on the charred and smokey remnants of our home, our treasured momentos, and our new wedding gifts.
We sat on the lawn with our family as the daylight grew brighter and brighter. I ventured into the house for another look around, and there, on the floor, was the green package with a big red bow, smokey but still intact. I grabbed the gift and ran outside.
Look,” I told my husband, “look! I bought you this yesterday, and it’s still here…open it!”
And through tears, he sat down on the grass and opened it. He loved it, as I knew he would.
It took us some time, but we slowly recovered from that night. We spent some months living with his parents, and a lot of time wearing other people’s clothes. With the help of many people, some of whom we had never met, we replaced our belongings and again built our new life together.
We have used the vase many times. It’s beautiful when filled with camilia blossoms.
I have noticed some crazing on the surface, I think from the heat of the fire. A few pieces have chipped off.
But when I see this vase, it tells the story of our marriage, with it’s imperfect beginning…but still intact, and still beautiful.