The Glass Jar
by Tameko L. Barnette
Stephanie reached for the empty glass jar on the shelf in the kitchen. She had promised her mother, Elaine, a year ago that she would take care of it. Why would she want me to take care of this worthless hunk of glass, Stephanie thought. She walked into the living room, caressing the sofa she and her cousins spent many Saturdays jumping on, while watching cartoons. She was on her way upstairs to take one last look at the bedroom she slept in for eighteen years. As she took her first step up the staircase, she heard a voice say, "Stephanie, please don't forget the glass jar."
Stephanie turned around with fear in her heart. "Is someone in here?", she yelled. No one responded. With hesitation, she started walking up the stairs again.
"Please don't forget the glass jar, Stephanie," the voice said.
Stephanie's heart started to beat against her chest like a musician beating on a set of drums. "Who's there? This isn't funny." Stephanie held the banister tight. She was afraid to let go. She feared falling backwards and killing herself, because she finally recognized the voice she heard.
"Turn around, Stephanie."
"Why not? I'm not going to hurt you. I'm your mother, not a hell's angel."
"I thought you were dead."
"Yeah, and I thought you were going to take the glass jar with you."
"That's why you're here? To make sure I take that ugly jar with me."
"Yes. I won't be able to rest until I know you're going to fulfill the promise you made to me before my light was extinguished."
"Before I died, Stephanie."
"Well, I was going to take it, mother."
"You are such a liar. I saw you put it back on the shelf in the kitchen."
"What's so important about that hunk of junk anyway?"
"Sit down and I'll tell you."
Stephanie was surprised at how beautiful her mother looked. She always thought dead people looked ugly with torn, gray bodies and little insects crawling out of the holes that used to be eye sockets. They sat down in the living room, Elaine holding Stephanie's hands in her hands. Elaine sighed quietly, while she rocked her body from side to side like she had done for so many years when something was troubling her.
"Stephanie, I know you don't quite understand the significance of that jar. But let me assure you that it will be in your best interest to keep it."
"I'll keep it, mother. But I still don't understand the importance of keeping it."
"It belonged to your grandmother. You probably don't remember her, do you?"
"Not really. She died when I was two years old."
"I know. But she loved you very much."
"I'm sure she did, mother. But that still doesn't explain why I should keep the jar. It's just a raggedy old Mason jar. Although, I do remember that you never put anything in it."
"Exactly. Do you know why?"
"No," Stephanie rolled her eyes towards the ceiling in disbelief.
"Because that's all I had to remember my mother by. That glass jar," Elaine wiped her tears away.
"That's it. No money, no clothes, no pictures."
"Nothing, just the glass jar."
"How did that happen? Everybody in the family told me that grandma had a lot of valuable items around the house. And she had money, too. She didn't even leave a will?"
"No, she didn't leave a will. She didn't like talking about death, so the subject of a will never came up, Stephanie. After her funeral, everybody, including your greedy Aunt Mabel, ran over to her house like a bat out of hell and took everything that was worth anything out of the house. By the time I got there, the only thing that was left besides the wallpaper and the toilet seat was the glass jar sitting on the shelf in the kitchen. So I took it."
"That explains why you never showed me any pictures of her, huh?"
"That's right. They took everything, Stephanie. Photo albums, jewelry, clothes, shoes, curtains, bedsheets. You name it, they took it. I'm still surprised they didn't take the damn jar. The greedy bastards," Elaine laughed, but underneath her laughter was a feeling of disgust and anger. She stood up and walked towards the picture window next to the front door in the living room.
"Why didn't you try to take some of the items back?", Stephanie asked.
"Stephanie, listen to yourself," Elaine turned towards her, "Taking back some- thing from those thieving relatives of ours was like trying to catch a whale with a tooth- pick."
"Well, thank you for telling me. I wish you had told me this years ago."
"It wouldn't have done any good, Stephanie. But promise me, you'll take that glass jar with you, okay. One day, when you have children of your own, you can pass it on to them."
Stephanie looked at Elaine with compassion and understanding. Then, she was struck with laughter. "Well, at least I'll have pictures of you to show them."
"Yeah," Elaine sat back down next to Stephanie, "Just don't show them the picture of me at that Christmas party in 1993. I drank way too much that night. But there's something else, Stephanie."
"I have something for you. And I want you to put it in the jar."
"What?", Stephanie got excited. Elaine gave Stephanie a locket. Stephanie held the locket against her chest.
"It's a picture of you and..."
"How did you get it ? You just said that..."
"Well, Stephanie that's one advantage of being in the position I'm in now."
"What do you mean, mother?"
"Just remember this. If your Aunt Mabel ask you about it. You don't know what happened to it."
Stephanie laid back as she laughed aloud. When she sat up Elaine was gone. Stephanie put the locket in the glass jar and smiled. She kissed the jar gently and said,