The first time you decide to buy a vase you will know you have a home to bring it to
You’ll buy it on the promise of fresh cut flowers and embracing summer days
You’ll buy it knowing the lilac bush outfront will eventually hand you a harvest of the sweetest smelling petals
You will buy it with the promise of an abundance of tomorrows

My mother grew up never living anywhere long enough to call it home
Living with only the items necessary to survive the week
you can not have a vase if you do not have a home, if you do not have the flowers to put in it
Without a home and without flowers a vase just becomes another reminder of how empty everything is

When my momma crafted a home of her own she had a vase in every room
She even had two in the kitchen and they were always full of flowers
She’d leave one in my room so the scent of lilacs floated through the air whispering
there is no place like home
I used to love vases because they promised flowers
and they promised tomorrows

A week after my mother died I sat on the floor of my kitchen using the cold that had long since settled into my home as my
only companion
Except for the vases
Around 30 of them covered every surface of the room
the flowers no longer smelling like my home because my home died a week ago—no.
They smell like the funeral home where everyone my mom ever knew used me as her substitute to say goodbye, because I am the closest thing to her they will ever get

Weeks later the flowers died.
So I strung them on the walls and turned that house—our home
into a graveyard
I hid the vases away, unable to look at anything as empty as me
Unable to look at my symbol of a tomorrow that she won’t be in

Months later when the spring settled in and the sun made its return I boarded up the windows
I drew every shade, unable to look at my mom’s favorite flowers
unable to smell a home I have long since lost

And when I walked in my room to find a small vase with purple flowers
it felt like the world was imploding
Like being surrounded by an ocean of joy and innocence that no longer belongs to you
Upon a closer inspection I saw the uneven stems and too soon picked petals and I knew my father had put them there
And in that moment I hated myself for tucking him away with all of the vases
because selfishly I couldn’t look at him without crying
So I hid him in the corner of my mind that used to be my home

It has been two years now—two long years
But I have finally learned to open up the windows and let the smell of lilacs embrace me like my mother once did
I’ve learned to no longer shy away from my fathers hugs, because like the vases under our cabinets, we may be empty, but at least we have each other

The other day I finally emptied our cupboards of all of the vases
As I was packing them away one slipped out of my grasp and shattered
and that sound released a breath I didn’t know I was holding
So I broke another, and another, and another
each shatter releasing me from the only future I ever wanted
one with her in it

Those funeral vases filled with so much emptiness were banished from my world
In the end I was left with only my momma’s old vases
I kept those though.
I put one in every room and filled them with flowers
I filled them with life
I got rid of the bouquet corpses on our walls
and when spring finally came
I opened the windows.

Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters on Unsplash

Shayla Maine

Shayla Maine is currently a student studying biology at the University of New Hampshire. While she studies science in school, her dream is to become a fiction and poetry writer.