Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Sixty, maybe seventy years ago my father gave a turquoise blown-glass dinnerware set to his mother, my Grandma Rose.  She called it her “mowt-blown china.”   At antique stores I’ve seen similar glassware, said to be from Mexico.

Grandma gave it to my brother Lew, who gave it to me.  Every time I used those dishes, I felt a connection to Daddy and Grandma too.

More fragile than china, they came out mostly for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or sci-fi dinner parties.


Thom and I were newlyweds when I gave him a mug bearing an excerpt from Rilke that we’d borrowed for our marriage vows.
“For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.


Thom had already learned that lesson the hard way.  Before we met I’d had a fear of commitment.  I was so afraid of getting stuck or worse, abandoned, that I rarely went on more than a couple dates with anyone.  I carried my own walking papers in my back pocket and I wasn’t afraid to use them.

Then came Thom. Poor Thom. Dear Thom. Courageous Thom.

He could take it on the chin, and grin.

He was wise enough to perceive the pattern and understand what I was doing even before I did.  He was gentle and patient.  He taught me how to fight fairly and work things out instead of just dumping guys in general, and him in particular.  He taught me that it was okay to ask for what I want, how to negotiate, and not to expect others to be able to read my mind.  He taught me that I could be myself and still be loved.  He taught me that there were men out there who can be counted on, and that I could count on him.  Thom deserves combat pay for sticking it out long enough for me to realize I didn’t want to make him go away after all.   And so I stopped trying.  Best decision I ever made.

So what do these vessels have to do with Thom and me, or anything at all?

 

Almost thirty years ago a dear friend, who may or may not have been related, was visiting and washed the dishes.

Putting them away, she stacked the elegant glass cup inside the Love Mug.  Try as we might, we could not pry them apart.  We tugged and twisted, but were so afraid of breaking either piece that we gave up.  I couldn’t bear to throw them out, so they lived here for the next twenty-five plus years.

It is both appropriate and a little poetic that the same person, without whom there would be no story, was also present for its unexpected conclusion.

A year or two ago, I rediscovered the inextricable pair in the back of the cupboard.  I decided, once and for all, to mend it or end it.  It was like asking a husband to choose between the life of the mother or the child, which is why I’d put it off for so long.  I finally opted to save the heirloom glass, if possible, which was stuck inside the mug.  I told that dear person, who shall remain unnamed, that I’d take a hammer to the mug, if necessary; if the glass were to break as well, so be it.

But I’ve learned a little grease applied judiciously can go a long way.  We drizzled oil in between and pulled, hoping the glass would slide out.  It did not.

We went back to simple lessons learned in high school science.  Heat expands and cold contracts.  While soaking the outside of the mug in boiling water, we filled the glass with ice water.  Still the glass stuck tight.  So it came down to the last resort.  Holding the mug by the handle, I whacked it on the countertop, hoping it would shatter.  Pop! Out came the glass, in perfect shape, and I had my morning coffee in the Love Mug.

There are several morals to this story.

First of all, no one can tease me any more for hanging on to the glass and the mug all those years.  Pay attention to your instincts!

Secondly, you might actually learn something in science class that you can apply to real life (and don’t forget that bit about the grease.)

Thirdly, breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes you just reach a breaking point, where you need to mend it or end it.

Fourthly, once you try everything you can think of, try everything you can’t think of.  Sometimes you have to try everything all at once.  But if it’s something worth saving, it’s worth the effort.

Love is like that.  Thank goodness.

All images and words c2014 Naomi Baltuck

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97 Comments

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      I was completely flabbergasted when not only the glass survived, but the mug did too. We’re all stronger than we appear to be!
      Thanks for the visit. I hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day!

  1. Wonderful story and a lesson learned…all of you – even the friend who may or may not be related and the glassware – are so cute! Thank you for sharing!

  2. What a post… I would never have separated the two.. it must have been a love affair of note for them to be locked together for so many years… great post Naomi…

    1. Hi Darla,
      I couldn’t believe it. Made me wish I hadn’t waited so long, but I’m thinking twenty five years ago I wouldn’t have had the sense to know how to proceed. There are SOME good things about getting older!
      Thanks for the visit.

  3. Here’s another lesson: sometimes just letting something sit for a time and going back to it later is a natural “reboot”. “It Worked for the Cat” was a post I did when the cat came down lame from the attic one day. We didn’t rush her off to the vet, we let her rest. In a few days, she was functioning fine again. Doing nothing is sometimes a good solution…like for shoveling snow. You don’t need to rush out and move it. You may let it melt. We often like to be “problem solvers” when there is no problem!

    1. Dear Scilla,
      Are you sure we didn’t grow up in the same family? My mom’s unspoken motto was “Don’t fix something if it’s not broken, and if it is broken, wait awhile and see if it will fix itself.” This worked for everything but her taxes and, unfortunately, cancer.

  4. Wonderful story and pics, Naomi. I’m so happy that the glass and mug are now free to go their own ways, but I bet they’ll always stay close, but not too close, which is how a relationship should be. 🙂

    1. Dear Sylvia,
      Thank you for your good wishes. I agree about relationships. Another quote we used in our vows was that we did not want to become one person, but rather two people dancing around one center.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      You always make me smile!
      Sometimes you just have to reach a point where you are willing to risk everything for the result you want. I guess that’s sort of like what marriage is all about, but this was more a case of do or die, at least for the glass and the mug. In most marriages there are less drastic options!

    1. Hi Dallas,
      Yes, and ones I need to learn again and again. I probably shouldn’t have waited twenty-five years to solve this problem, but perhaps one of the lessons is “Better late than never.”
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to comment. It is always good to hear from you.

  5. I had tears in my eyes when I read about your love for Thom and his for you.
    I had a smile on my face when I read about the mug and the glass.
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Thom!
    Dorota

  6. This was the best story that I read today! I don’t always have a chance to read many blogs and I am continually playing “catch up,” but this was a wonderful way to learn about your relationship, your family and your own personal perseverance! Glad all went well, the beautiful handblown glass is a true testament (or indication of) your own love story. Hugs, Robin

    1. Dear Robin,
      Thank you for the visit, and for your very sweet response to this post. It made my day! I too seem to be in a perpetual state of “catch up” with my blog reading. One thing I can say is that I always manage to respond to anyone who takes the time and trouble to comment on a post, although sometimes it might take a couple of days. Through those exchanges I get to know some blogging buddies better than others. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know you! I hope your Valentine’s Day was a good one. And now spring is just around the corner!

  7. Yay for the outcome of this tale! Great pics, especially you in the swirly blue dress and the one showing your dad in his uniform. I’ve actually never heard anyone say “mend it or end it.” I will have to try that out IRL!

    1. Dear Laurel,
      I do love a happy ending! Thank you for your lovely comment. After I read your message, I was curious and actually Googled the expression “mend it or end it,” and it’s floating around out there in the world. I must’ve heard it at some point and internalized it for future reference.
      I hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day. For those of us here in the Northwest, spring, albeit a very wet one, is just around the corner!

      1. Spring? What is this spring of which you speak? I’m sure I have a distant memory of a time when it wasn’t raining or freezing and I was wearing just a single pair of pants . . . Can I tell winter to mend it or freakin’ end it?

      2. Dear Laurel,
        We have been having a lot of rain, but today, on the way back from the post office, the sun came out and shone on the mountains and lit up the water. I stopped and did 500 steps up and and 500 down at our local library (that’s 21 sets of 24), just to stay warm while soaking up the rays. When I got home, I appreciated that the primroses on our front lawn are in full bloom, and the tulips are poking their noses out of the ground. Yes! Springtime is just around the corner, and it’ll be here so soon and suddenly that you won’t even see it coming! (But in the meantime, I would prescribe a double dose of twinkle lights to keep the darkness at bay).

      3. Dear Naomi,

        Okay, so I’m a little behind on reading comments, but had to smile because while we did get some sun up here as well a few days ago, when I opened your comment just now it is 32 degrees and snowing.

        So you did 500 steps? Show off. I stayed inside next to the stove while two darling young boys, both named Jonathan, showed up with matching yellow snow shovels and offered to shovel my driveway. I let them.

        Love your Tiki Torch post! Where did you take the pic of your husband behind bars? That is hilarious.

  8. It is indeed hard to let go of something that has so much memories in them. I too collect little things that gives me connections to love ones. More so to those already far from me. Somehow looking at things they gave me makes me feel like they’re just an arms length away. Thanks for sharing your treasures today. They are a vision of inspiration. Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Oh, yes! I do understand that. For instance, wearing one of my mom’s sweaters is almost as good as a hug. And I have kept my dad’s very worn out old Teddy Bear. I think of him very tenderly when I look at it.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I think you are an unusual man–more expressive and thoughtful and sentimental than most–and your family is lucky to have you! Best wishes to you all!

  9. Great story and a perfect ending I am glad he made you see way back then I carried those same papers you did.

  10. Beautiful writing, great metaphors, wonderful story!!! The photo of you in the kitchen reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting!! 😀 One of your best Naomi.

    1. Hi Madhu,
      Norman Rockwell is an amazing visual storyteller who I have admired all my life. Thank you for your very kind comment.
      In response to your comment, the person in the kitchen photo is my sister Constance, who was there for the beginning of this story, when she stacked the class inside the mug, and also for the end of the story, when we miraculously managed to extract the glass from the mug. (And many many wonderful times in between).
      Thanks again, Madhu!

  11. Another great story Naomi!

    Sounds like you made a great decision keeping Thom around 🙂 I definitely would not have thrown out the glass-in-mug either and its so funny that you finally got to the point of do or die with them. I probably would have been happy to leave them together forever but I’m so glad that they both survived the big bang 🙂

    1. Dear Arlene,
      They made the move from one house–and cupboard to another, and we have been in this house for twenty-five years, so I did wait a very long time to reach that point. If my sister hadn’t been there, helping me clean out that kitchen cupboard, that glass and that mug might have spent another twenty-five years snuggling in the dark in the back of that cupboard!

  12. I must have run out of time, but I did read this post on Sunday and I thought I pushed “like” on it, too. I feel bad, when I look back that it still looked like I had ‘said my peace/piece’ but not pushed ‘like’ button. I enjoyed reading your response and am also glad we are getting to know each other! Take care and thanks for your insightful comment and personal story about Kahlil Gibran quotation being part of Thom’s and your wedding. It was an excellent addition to that particular post! Smiles, Robin

  13. Love happy endings like everyone else – a lovely story … about things that are meant to be together … glas and cup … a man and a woman. Just lovely. Keep love alive, you two.

  14. Catching up on my comments (I always read your posts when they land in my inbox like unexpected gifts)

    I love this story, especially the way it turned out. I was hesitant to read further at one point, afraid that you had broken the love mug, or that the beautiful blue glass had shattered – I love a happy ending! I have a treasured collection of broken mugs and teacups that I have collected over the years, not knowing exactly why but following my heart’s gentle suggestion, and now I finally know why. I am using them to weave into and among the flagstones of the new patio we are building at our family cabin lakeside retreat. 😀

    Blessings,
    Terri

    1. Dear Meg,

      I’m tickled if this story hit the mark for you. It always surprises me when I come upon a story in your blog that somehow I’ve missed (I still haven’t managed to get an automatic email notification when you post), but I always catch up with them sooner or later!
      Love,
      n

      1. I think when I first started I added you as something like co-editor and then thought I had to stand on my own two feet and took your name out. I’ll ask the help desk. M

  15. I didn’t know that! You are such a fine storyteller and I’m sure it was just a little wobble of confidence as you started to apply your skills in a new format and venue as a blogger. When I first got started, I had Bea still at home to help me out. xoxo, n

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