Mark Ballard

Treasured vases a reminder of friendship

By MARK BALLARD - Special to The Telegraph

It has been said that we are known by the company we keep. That rule applies to more than just our friends. You can learn a lot about people by looking at the things surrounding them.

Our homes are great mirrors into what we treasure. I’ve always loved to surround myself with bright, happy colors and beautiful things.

How many times have we walked into someone’s house and immediately felt a connection with the person who resides there? Our private spaces offer many clues into our personalities. That’s one of the things I enjoy about visiting with friends; I also get to visit with their treasures.

Over the years, I’ve been accused of writing my name on masking tape with a sharpie to secure one of my friends’ treasures should they depart this earth before me. If I’m completely honest, there is some truth to this -- but not just because I love their beautiful things. The real reason is I want one of their keepsakes as a remembrance of our friendship every time I see it.

I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends who happen to love exquisite things. For the last few decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to gather quite an eclectic and beautiful group of treasures. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel as if I’m spending time with my friends -- even though they are actually no longer here.

I have acquired wonderful things that are sitting and hanging all around our house. I like to call them a gathering of friends. A 100-year-old framed needle point piece featuring bumble bees, porcelain plates of all shapes and sizes, a one-of-a-kind music box complete with a chirping gilded, feathered bird and various ceramic figurines are just a few of my prized possessions that formerly belonged to my friends.

Recently, Frances Gavin, a friend and former neighbor I had treasured for many years, passed away. We spent many a delightful afternoon and evening enjoying wonderful laughter and fellowship. I was so very sad when she died. In fact, on my answering machine, I still have the last message she left me so I can play it whenever I want to hear her voice.

Just the other day, Frances’ daughter called to tell me she wanted to bring something to me. When I answered the door, there she stood with a pair of gorgeous French vases. “Mother wanted you to have these,” she said, tearing up.

With just a glance, I knew exactly which vases they were. From the first day I met Frances, those vases held a place of honor in her living room. They had flanked each end of her mantle for more years than I’d been alive.

Each time I visited her home, I commented on this pair of hand-painted vases. I often wondered how many blazing fires they had witnessed in that fireplace. How many celebrations had they attended? Could they possibly remember how many Christmas trees over the years had reflected in their shiny glaze? I did know one thing, if those vases could talk, what stories they could share!

I told her on more than one occasion I would love to have them if anything ever happened to her. She always laughed and said they were broken and glued back together. That didn’t matter one bit to me; it just gave them even more personality.

Even as gorgeous as their regal shapes and golden accents are, they could never live up to Frances’ personality. As they came into my house, so did a part of Frances.

After her daughter left, I stood in our living room visiting with the vases. I immediately noticed their broken imperfections. Holding one in my hand, I could only imagine how many hours it took to glue each tiny piece of porcelain back together with the now-yellowed glue.

As I rubbed my finger across the slight ridges left where a few shards were missing, I couldn’t help but wonder how they had been broken. That really didn’t matter to me. All I needed to know was they meant enough to Frances to save them, and that was good enough for me.

Since they are so delicate and fragile, I decided to place them in our china cabinet in the midst of other collected treasures. They seemed perfectly at home -- just as Frances always was when visiting us.

I stood there for a moment to bask in their beauty and to visit with my departed and treasured friend. It is my hope that one day someone else will get them and love them as much as Frances and I did.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.