Skip to Content
Search Icon


Broken Statues

On a gift for mom.


When I was five years old, my mom would occasionally drop me off to be babysat at her parents’ house. Once, when I was bored, I found my grandma’s statues of the saints and decided to play with them as action figures. It was fun until I broke Saint Anthony into a few pieces. I was terrified of getting in trouble, so I dropped the pieces behind a bookcase, hoping my grandma wouldn’t notice. Of course she did. My mom made me buy her a new one with my own money. Allowance is scarce for five-year-old boys, so I had to sacrifice a new copy of Pokemon Stadium for my grandma. I didn’t want to do that, but my mom insisted, and, after all, it was the right thing to do. I never bought another statue, until twenty-two years later.

Last March, some friends asked me to come on a trip to Mexico. The choice was easy: I was unemployed, single, and loaded with flight points on my credit card. Plus, they said we’d pass through Guadalupe. In my mind that was enough to justify the trip. When I told my mom where I’d be in a few weeks, I emphasized the part about Guadalupe.

“Oh, you’re going to see Our Mother?” my mom exclaimed. “Then, you know, you must get something good for your poor mom, who can’t go with you but would love to join! I can’t wait to see my gift.”

My original plan was to blow my money on tequila, chicharrones, and some small gifts for each member of my family. My friends and I planned to see a World Cup qualifying match at Aztec Stadium; we were going to party in my friend’s hometown; we wanted to explore the country on a Polaris RZR with six-packs of tallboys in the back seat—I didn’t like the idea of sacrificing any of those plans to get a souvenir for my mom. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous I felt. She deserved better.

When we arrived in Guadalupe, our movements took many twists and drunken turns. But on the day that we visited the basilica, we had our priorities straight. It was the day Pope Francis consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so we put on our nicest polo shirts and stuffed rosaries in our pockets. The crowd was calm, and I was able to get some much-needed prayer time beneath the miraculous tilma. I prayed for my life to turn around and for healing in my soul. It was a joy and privilege to ask for God’s mercy quite literally under Our Mother’s mantle. But the second I wiped the tears off my face and the pressure lifted from my knees, I knew it was gift time.

I went to three different gift shops, and they all seemed to have the same things. Medals, jewelry, umbrellas, statues, clothes, icons, wait—statues? It occurred to me that no one had given my mom a statue in a long time. But there was no way I could stuff a statue in my backpack, and, even if I bought one small enough to do so, it wouldn’t be enough for my mom. She probably wouldn’t like it. Anyway, the bigger ones were too expensive, and I still had a whole week worth of Mexico left. Move on, something else!

I continued my search as, one by one, all of my friends finished shopping and began waiting impatiently outside in the hot sun. We were headed to the pyramids next, and it was already late in the afternoon. The lines were long. I realized this would be my only chance. I stood waiting to ask for something in my broken Spanish, nervous and shaking all over. Pick something! I managed to grab a few things for friends, and then I saw a statue staring back at me. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was my Mother. I knew then. I didn’t even care how expensive she was or whether she would fit in my bags: my eyes were fixed on her. The sweat poured down my face, I could see my friends getting more impatient, the cashier was ready for my order, and then I finally spluttered with very poor pronunciation: “Me gustaria comprar eso.”

It was nearly ninety degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and the drive to the pyramids was well over an hour away into the middle of nowhere. There were six of us tightly packed in an Uber: the driver, three of my friends, me, and my Mother under my arm, wrapped in plastic. I couldn’t wait to go home. The plastic was tearing and I could barely protect her. The sun was making me sweat all over, and my arms were getting so tired. It had only been a few hours and already I had started to have my doubts about this statue. But I was becoming overtaken by a strange sense of purpose: I was her son, and I felt that I was on a mission to protect her. When I took a photo of her propped in front of all the pagan stones, I knew I was committed to getting her home safely. I thought that mission would be completed as we got into our next Uber.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, we ended up at a restaurant a few blocks away, meeting with more friends, doubling our party size, and prolonging the outing. I was getting more nervous, hoping no one would accidentally kick my Mother, and I tried to protect her from the chairs being pulled out and prevent drinks being spilt on her. As we finished our meal and walked outside, it was pitch black. We spent way too much time drinking after the meal. All the tourists and locals were gone. There were stray dogs wandering everywhere, and the temperature was dropping. We were in summer outfits and were freezing. After almost an hour of trying, the only Uber that would respond to our S.O.S. showed up, and it wasn’t the R.M.S. Carpathia. I thought that surely we’d let the ladies go first and then we would just wait in the cold for three hours until this little compact car made its round trip back, right? I clutched my Mother firmly in fear, wondering how much longer the night would go on.

It was barely forty degrees, a full moon out, and the drive ended prematurely on the side of a major highway in the middle of nowhere. There were eleven of us tightly packed in the Uber: the driver, our two lady friends in the front passenger seat, me and four other friends in the back seats, two of our smallest friends in the trunk, and my Mother under my arm. We had to swap Ubers at this undisclosed spot along the highway because, according to our driver, if the police saw us past this point, we’d be in trouble. I smoked a cigarette with my Mother on the hood of the car, cold to the bone, wondering what that noise was in the dark next to us. My fears began to melt as I realized Our Mother was truly the light leading us back home.

The rest of the trip went smoothly. We stayed in my friend’s hometown. I met a priest whose uncle fought and died in the Cristero War. I made my confession to him and, due to my lack of Spanish, he told my penance to my friend, who relayed it back to me in English. (Talk about trust.) Before he left, he blessed our items and in particular Our Mother. I felt whole again: grateful for the sacrament and confident that I could bring my Mother back home in one piece. Surgery, however, almost always leaves a scar, and I learned that as the airport rejected the statue sticking out of my backpack. I argued and asked for me to bring my Mother with me as a carry-on. Instead, we had to put her in a checked bag with the tequila.

I thought that she would be protected, and that, if this was meant to be, the Lord would keep her in one piece. I arrived back in the States confident of the Lord’s blessing. That hope was dashed as soon as I saw a puddle of tequila seeping out of our bag as it made its way on the conveyor belt in baggage claim. Before opening it, we dragged the case to the bathroom, and a trail of alcoholic goodness followed us like the path of a snail. My faith was that of Doubting Thomas: I thought this would only be the correct gift for my mom if we opened up the bag and the statue was intact.

Of course these were vain hopes. The statue was shattered into about thirty pieces, ranging from the size of my head to the size of my fingernail.

I contemplated buying another statue from Amazon instead, but that would have only been a statue. My Mother was with me this entire trip; I couldn’t just toss her aside and hide her. The only right option was to glue her back together. But I have no talent whatsoever for that kind of thing: I can’t draw, I can’t doodle, I can’t carve, I can’t glue, and I definitely can’t mold a statue back together. I did anyway. I can’t quite explain it, but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mom.

Kintsugi is a style of Japanese art that involves fixing cracked plates and pottery with gold. The embracement of the cracks with gold was a fitting image for what this trip and this mission of mine meant for me. I hoped my mom would understand. So, I bought some gold leaf paint and Gorilla Glue and put on some vaporwave music as I meticulously put my Mother back together. The real miracle was that her head wasn’t cracked at all, but mainly the moon and her feet below. The devil thought he had his day, but she’ll still trample him hour after hour.

After about a week of redos, tequila sunrises, and prayers of supplication, the statue turned out better than before. I gave each crack a gold outline, I added a new shade of blue over her mantle, and I felt that she glowed brighter now. The beauty was this story, and honestly, I’ve never been so proud of myself. It was a moment to relish: this little Mediatrix made my weakness blossom into something vibrantly new.

I gave my Mother to her daughter, and she was ecstatic. No tears, which is what I was hoping for, but she loved it. I think she was confused about why I added the gold, as that wasn’t her style, but she thoroughly enjoyed the story and all the trouble I went through to put her back together. I recalled that old Saint Anthony statue I bought for my grandma, and how, this time, I fixed a statue of my own free will. I think I made three beautiful ladies proud. In my parents’ house, Our Lady of Guadalupe now resides behind a small plant (which obstructs the majority of the golden cracks) next to a picture of her daughter and her daughter’s family.

Adam Stynchula makes Catholic vaporwave in Richmond, Virginia, as Wafers 3D.