Remember the beautiful, crystal vase that stood in our home?
It was such a pretty sight! It stood on a raised platform on the best-lit spot in the house. Everyone who visited our home saw it and complimented its beauty and grandeur. We all adored it and made a family goal to keep it well polished and shiny. We took it upon ourselves to keep it safe and warned anyone who danced near it. No one shook the raised platform that the vase stood on. Even our pets knew better than to play near that spot. And so, there stood a beautiful, delicate crystal vase in our home.
Mama, do you remember the vase, that you so proudly displayed to your friends and family? The one you made sure we all took turns polishing? It was your dignity and delight!
Papa, do you remember pointing it out to your colleagues when they visited and talking long and boastfully to everyone who could listen about it? Do you remember the threats you made to anyone who came too close to breaking it?
Brother, do you remember stopping on your tracks just in time to not touch the platform and shake the vase? Do you remember never banging the door in your anger, in case it rattled the walls and toppled the vase over?
Sister, do you remember your silence? Do you remember swallowing your screams when angry because you somehow feared that loud noises would shake the delicate vase? Do you remember when you stopped dancing because your merry lightness let you so close to the raised platform that you shook the vase?
Aunts, uncles, neighbors! Do you all remember our quiet household with no tantrums, no raised voices, no banged doors or dancing feet? Do you remember admiring the tranquility?
I remember taking turns with everyone in the family to polish the vase. I also remember covering my nose every time I stood close to the vase because it stank! That beautiful crystal smelled like lifelessness. From deep inside its soft, shiny mold came the smell of rot! The smell of an accumulation of decomposed matter. Only we who stood close enough could smell the stench, and it grew stronger, spread wider with time. I sensed that the neighbors and frequent visitors started smelling it too. But everyone ignored that dead-matter smell because it was coming from such a beautiful, delicate vase!
I remember one day standing next to the vase with my duster and polisher ready to give it a good shine. I started polishing with dread in my gut and my breath held. When I allowed myself a lungful of air, I inhaled a foul stench! This time the decay of so much had brewed into a marvelous lung-piercing stench. My gut couldn’t hold itself together; and so, I turned and watched you all going about your subtle activities with shallow breaths, I moved my hand to give the vase a mighty shove and watched it crash with a satisfying sound…
I expected your unbelieving, shocked faces… I didn’t expect the glorious relief in my belly.
We stand now staring at the shattered pieces as an ugly smell rises from the floor and spreads throughout the house:
Mama, that’s the smell of accumulated secrets. That’s the smell of the many times you warned your daughters to cover their legs while welcoming predators into your house. Smells of also the many times you swallowed dams of tears for the sake of keeping the family together.
Papa, that’s the smell of your dissatisfaction for marrying, for settling and shrinking your dreams into fatherhood. The smell of your resentment that reminded her she was never enough. That’s the smell of the pride you strapped so tightly around your core that you wouldn’t let your son be a mere boy.
Brother, that’s the smell of your lost childhood. That’s the smell of your anger and insecurities buried so deep that you will miss them when you finally let go. That’s the smell of your manliness that doesn’t allow you to cry or ask for help.
Sister, that’s the smell of your stifled sobs from the nights that you cried yourself to sleep because the burden your mothers asked you to bear wasn’t yours. That’s the smell of your confusion and sense of betrayal. It’s also a smell of your resolve to carry this burden to your children so you may finally sleep.
These dear family, are the smells of the secrets we kept even though everyone knew about them but chose to look away. This smell is the reality of our lives behind the mask of perfection and still waters. And as we stand looking down at the shattered hypocrisy on our feet, the smells rise and wisp towards every room in the house. It’s hard to breathe. Someone better open a window and let in some fresh air. And I’m pretty sure someone is about to scream at me for deciding to break this vase. This beautiful, delicate, crystal vase that stank of dead matter… Somebody is going to do something. And to that I say; let there be noise.