Danny Heitman

Danny Heitman. 

When our house was burglarized last January, whoever did it turned over one of our garden pots while they were breaking in. As big as a bushel basket and made of terra cotta, the pot crashed to the pavement and cracked in a half-dozen pieces.

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The pot had cost a lot of money, but it had even greater sentimental value for us. We’d gotten it as a Mother’s Day present for my wife a few years ago, planting it with kitchen herbs.

Resigned that our gift was ruined, I bought a new pot, one even stronger than what it replaced, and we replanted it with chives, parsley and sage. I planned to break up what remained of the old pot and use the pieces for other garden projects.

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But my mother-in-law, who grew up right after the Depression and embraced its ideals of thrift, talked us out of discarding the broken pot. Maybe, with a little bit of patience and love, it could be fixed.

Our son, who was home for the summer before starting college, volunteered to tackle the project. After reading a how-to guide online, he bought some heavy-duty glue at the hardware store and got to work.

First, he emptied the pot and cleaned it well, hauling it to the front porch, where he’d set up a work station. Because the pot was in so many pieces, it wasn’t practical to mend it all at once. He glued a couple of shards at a time, binding the pot with twine to keep the repairs in place. Only when each mend had cured could he continue with his task, which put patience at a premium.

After several days, the job was complete, and our son replanted the pot with cantaloupe. As the melon plant grew, its trailing leaves spilled over the side, covering the mended places so that the pot looked good as new. A summer fades, the cantaloupe will fade, too, revealing the cracks where the pot was mended.

The repair isn’t perfect, as my son would readily admit. The seams where the pot was reglued make vivid fault lines visible from several feet away. The cracks are something we’ve learned to accept, and maybe even welcome. They remind us of the hours a young man spent to help make a broken part of his mother’s life whole again.

Glancing at the pot each morning as I sip the first coffee of the day at the kitchen window, I often think of something else. The thief who thoughtlessly tipped the pot took only seconds to shatter something dear. Fixing it — to the degree it could be fixed — took days.

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It always takes much longer to fix something than to break it, if it can be fixed at all. I’ve been mulling this over as I watch the news each night, so often full of broken things that might take lifetimes to mend.


Email Danny Heitman at dheitman@theadvocate.com.