I jumped back, clutching at my mother’s apron.
A thousand shards of pottery lay at our feet; mother’s favourite jug shattered on the parched ground, its contents spreading like an angry stain on the earth.
She’d told me the tale of the jug once; how her mother had given it to her when she’d wed. She had treasured it ever since. Every day she would fill it with some strange brew and we’d go together across the fields to find my father, hard at work on the farm. Every day he would gulp down the liquid, wipe his brow, smile at my mother, pat me on the head and then we’d wend our way back home.
Not today. My mother seemed rooted to the spot. I trembled for her as I saw her eyes fill with tears. Quickly I dropped to the ground, feverishly gathering up all the pieces I could, making a basket of my pinny to hold the precious fragments.
Seeing my efforts, my mother smiled a watery smile.
“Don’t fret, Susan.” She pulled me to my feet. I noticed she slipped one of the jagged bits into her pocket. “Leave the pieces be. That jug was always filled with love, and it’s the love that matters, not the vessel. Come, we must find another pot to take your father his ale. He’ll be sorely thirsty in this heat.”
She rushed back to our tiny kitchen and I dutifully followed in her wake, my fingers clutching my own piece of love in my pocket.