Last evening, I reached for a lidded china box and managed to flip its delicate lid onto the tile floor. The phrase “broke into a thousand pieces” was coined for the aftermath.

I was sad for several reasons. One, the box was old, beautiful, and very useful. Two, somebody I used to love gave it to me. And three, I liked it. A lot. Then I started thinking about my mother, and how she would have reacted to breaking the ornate lid of an antique china box.

She would have sighed, then said, “Oh well, at least I didn’t break the useful part that holds stuff. And I’m not trying to hide anything anyway, so the lid doesn’t matter.”

But to me, it was all about that lid. The swirls and flowers, and all the gold edging. The fact that it fit perfectly onto a piece that kept my earrings off the floor was just a bonus.

For me, the good part is gone, even if the useful part (which is still being used) is intact and unscathed.

My mother’s ability to retrieve what was left from any tragedy and make do is what made her magnificent. My love for lids and covers is hard to explain, but I have always been fond of keeping things out of view. I am not fond of locks, but I love slight barriers.

In the meantime, the useful part of the china box retains its position on my dresser, where is has remained for many years. It’s form has been changed forever, even if its function has not.