honoring brokeness

Sprite and the Broken Clasp

Thanks always to Martin, whose photos grace my posts and whose listening heart graces my life.

Thanks always to Martin, whose photos grace my posts and whose listening heart graces my life.

In a sea cottage at the edge of the marsh where the waves washed the shore, a sprite was sobbing. Not just sobbing but all out howling the kind of howls that hitched her little chest, turned her eyes into rivers and her nose into a gooey faucet.

No one knew exactly why Sprite was crying. Could have been the way the sheets tangled her ankles during the night, or that the last of the oatmeal got eaten before she came to table. Or it just might have been the fact that the air that summer morning just didn’t feel right. Since she wouldn’t stop her wailing, the olders in her midst timed her out, even though the power to rescue herself from this utter meltdown was so far beyond her that the gulls flying skyward heard her shrieks through their cawing and squawking.

Her mother tried muting her with a promise of ice cream after lunch. This did nothing to stop her hitchy chest. Her father tried silencing her with the threat of no bedtime story. That did nothing to stop her rivery eyes. Her grandmother tried stilling her with the wheedle that her crying was upsetting her grandfather, her cousins and even Aunty. Which did nothing, but absolutely nothing, to stop her faucety nose. But that last wheedle did catch the ears of Aunty who was just waking up from a totally wonderful nap in the hammock overlooking the marsh.

When Aunty heard her name invoked in a try to stop the sprite’s hitching, rivering and fauceting, she spun from the hammock, crossed the wooden decking, and knelt down in front of the sprite — eye to eye, nose to nose, chest to chest. Nobody, but nobody, uses Aunty’s sensibilities as a threat to stop a sprite from sobbing.

“I’m here,” said Aunty, “What’s up?” Sprite’s cries escalated, forcing Aunty to adjust her hearing aid a bit.  “Breathe with me?” Aunty tried. The sprite shook her head, “What’s wrong?” Aunty finally asked. “Why are you crying, Sprite? Why are you crying?” Aunty waited, still kneeling in front of the sprite, even though her knees had only the least bit of kneeling left in them for the morning.

Sprite opened her tiny fist and held it out to Aunty. On her palm lay a broken hair clasp. It was silver and gold; the picture of the queen that adorned it had fallen off. “Oh, my goodness,” said Aunty. “Your hair clasp has broken. What a terrible, terrible thing. A terrible thing.” And then she waited again, quietly honoring the sprite’s sobs.

Bit by bit, Sprite’s chest began to unhitch and her cries slowed. “It’s an awful thing to have something you love break,” said Aunty, “especially when you’re just a sprite. It’s no fun when you’re an older, either, but when you’re a sprite, well, it can feel like the end of the world, huh?”  Sprite nodded, wiping her nose with the hem of her nightgown before Aunty could pull a handkerchief from her back pocket.

“Why don’t we try to fix it?” Aunty asked. Sprite looked up, her blue eyes twin questions of such a possibility. “We can try,” replied Aunty. “And if it doesn’t work, you can still keep the Queen’s picture in your treasure box. What about that?” Sprite considered this for a moment, then nodded, and raised her hand to Aunty.

“Things break,” Aunty told Sprite as she lifted the pieces from her palm. “Sometimes we can fix them, and sometimes we just have to gather up the brokens and save them as we go.”

Sprite let Aunty wipe her eyes with the handkerchief. “Isn’t this the morning you’re making drip castles on the sands?” Sprite nodded in remembering. She hugged Aunty a quiet hug and scampered to the shed for her shovel and pail. Aunty watched her go, knowing full well wisely, and fiercely, just how many brokens it takes to make up a lifetime…


I wrote this grown-up’s fable after a conversation with a little person who was bereft because something she treasured had broken. Sometimes all it takes to mend our “brokens” is a quiet conversation with someone who will listen.

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