Grandpa had a vase made of red clay that lay atop hard surfaces everywhere we moved. I used to think it contained the ashes of all my dead relatives including grandpa.
On it were carved horses carrying majestic women into some kind of foreign battle: helmets, shields, an amulet hanging on the leader in the shape of a snake. A shapeshifter.
Over time, the legs and arms of the warriors became rough and worn in places where we may have placed the vase a little too carelessly. The doublet which had once protruded proudly worn to a nub, the slops barely shielding the strong, bare legs of those champions riding to some unknown destiny. Family legend said that grandpa had found the vase when he danced that summer in India, when he learned to make alters of fruit and fell in love with a Hindu man.
When I was nine, I summoned the nerve to turn the vase upside down and see what was inside: hands trembling, sensing the spirit of those old gods and grandpa, I lifted the heavy piece off the fireplace mantle and all that fell out were two dimes and the wrapper of an old Snickers bar mom had squirreled away.
It didn’t really matter.
Every time she visited, grandma would still wander at night in her old blue nightgown to cradle that empty vase to her chest and kiss the legs of those ancient women with so much tenderness.
After, I prayed to the warrior women, left oranges at their feet and urged the battle go on…