Like many of the people I interview for this “I love my…” series, Honi Goldman’s first inclination was to focus either on the passion she feels for her work or on a fundamental value that guides her life. However, when pressed to select a specific item that she treasures, the decision was an easy one. “I love my great-grandmother’s vase. It reminds me of the strong women in my family, their experiences and our history,” Honi says.
In the early 1900s, Great-Grandmother Minnie and her husband Saul lived in a downtown Louisville home where the vase was a focal point in the living room. Stories passed through the family tell of Minnie riding in a carriage, going to visit with relatives and play cards on Sunday afternoons. Upon Minnie’s death, the vase made its way to Honi’s grandmother Dorothy, who loved to tell Honi stories about her daughters: Honi’s aunt and her mother Miriam. According to her grandma, Honi’s aunt was a “perfect child,” but Honi’s mother simply couldn’t keep her dresses clean (in those days, a clear indicator of a mischievous young girl). Honi remembers the vase in her own home growing up, and when her mother died, the vase became hers.
“When I see this beautiful piece, it reminds me of these strong women, and it connects us through time,” Honi says. A few years back, Honi took her granddaughter to the old neighborhood and tried to explain to her about a time where there was no electricity and where ice and milk were delivered to homes daily because there was no way to keep them cold. “At only 4 years old, she couldn’t conceive of a time without phones or iPads,” Honi says. “I told her that women talked, played games, and walked, just enjoying their time together. I want her to know their stories.”
The vase held a place of prominence in Honi’s home until Halloween night about four years ago. Her dogs Archie and Alice were confined to the kitchen so they wouldn’t bark and scare trick-or-treaters. Upon hearing the doorbell, Archie, who Honi calls her secret service dog, was desperate to get to the door and protect her. Using all 90 pounds of his weight, he broke out of the kitchen and bolted through the living room, where he toppled the vase. Honi gathered the pieces that night and put them in a box, determined to find a way to put the vase back together again. After much research, she learned of a Japanese art form called Kintsugi that could be used to reassemble her treasured vase. Last year she finally found a man in Delaware who did such work. “He asked that I send all the fragments, even those as small as a grain of rice,” Honi says.
When thinking about the vase and its long history, Honi considers the Passover tradition of breaking the matzah bread and pulling of one small piece. That piece would be hidden, and the kids would go to find it in hopes of a fun reward. “But they only got the reward if the piece could be matched again to the original,” Honi says. “And that’s the lesson in this for me: what was broken can be made whole again.” One day when Honi passes the vase along, the story of its Halloween misadventure and subsequent rebirth will become another part of the family lore.
By Megan S. Willman | Photos by Melissa Donald