Glass Beads


I used to be better at being a perfectionist. Somehow over the years I’ve started taking shortcuts here and there. Shhh. Don’t tell my mom. It’s funny how sometimes in an effort to save yourself a step you end up adding way more. Like today. Me and the jar of decorative glass. 

The lilac trees blossomed early this year. And oh, how I love lilacs. It’s become part of my spring ritual to clip the light purple bunches and to arrange them on my table for as long as they last. But they don’t last long. Three days usually. Then they start to shrivel and wilt, so I replace them with the next bunch. I’ve created a bi-weekly habit of washing out the vase, which is really a small hurricane for candles. Then comes the clipping, arranging, filling with water, and admiring my creation. But lilacs are floppy and need support to look their best. Enter the glass beads. 

I fill up my jar, past the halfway point, with these clear beads that I’ve had since I was first married. Most likely something I picked up at Michaels, trying to spruce up our first one bedroom apartment. Being a first-time homemaker filled me with such glee in those day. At times the beads have been covered in candle wax, after a candle or two has been left burning for too long. They’ve even been used at the bottom of a fish bowl to our ill-fated Beta fish. But mostly they’ve served as a base to countless bouquets of flowers. Flowers for birthdays. For anniversaries. For no reason at all. 

When you go through a divorce, after sharing a life with someone for ten years you have to make decisions about every little thing. You can’t scrap everything you own and start over, atleast I couldn’t, not on my budget. So you prioritize. You get rid of the jewelry and the photo albums and the framed vows. Then you slowly replace the gifts of wallets and watches. You rotate out clothes that you wore to special occasions as new clothes fill your closet. But things like these glass beads? They are the sort of thing that are too meaningless to throw away, even though they’ve been present for thousands of meaningful days. 

Today my lilacs were wilted, time to start the cycle of replacing them with new ones. The vase water had taken on a strong slimy odor, so I knew it needed a good scrubbing. The smart thing would’ve been to get a sieve and pour out the beads. But no, I wanted a short cut. Just fill the base with water and a squirt of my favorite dish soap. Swirl the beads around in my hands and then slightly spread my fingers, holding it against the top of the vase, allowing the water to drain. But the rim is wider than my hands and I spread my fingers too far, the beads slipping through and pinging against the stainless steel sink. 

A smarter gal than I would stop. But not me. Determined to skip that step, I persist in my endeavor. The soap bubbles continue to rise to the surface with more water added. I pour out the water again and again, more beads sneaking through my fingers each time. The dishwasher had been full of clean dishes, so this morning’s milky breakfast bowls are now sharing the sink with an ever growing pile of glass beads. 

I don’t know why life has to be so hard. I don’t know why we deliberately make decisions that make it harder. I don’t know why we persist in those decisions, why we refuse to change course for our own good. I don’t know why cutting corners and cleaning those glass beads nearly brought me to tears today. Or why it felt healing to watch them slide through my hands. Years of memories being scrubbed clean, and falling away. 

I’m not as good at being a perfectionist as I used to be. Life is messier than I ever imagined. But sometimes on the round about route, the one that is complicated and filled with missteps, you find yourself.

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