Eggs Fabergé

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I have been staring at these eggs for days. It’s entirely my fault though, I’m mesmerized. It’s not that I didn’t expect to end up where I did, it’s just that it’s better than I imagined.

I tried to find information on Kingspoint Designs, but had no luck. Google gave me no website and the address to a closed location. However I did find a pintrest post selling the same egg I have, and another eBay listing selling a different Kingspoint Designs egg. Though the egg was a different design, the box in the picture for the eBay listing looked very similar, and had a sticker reading “made in China.” I didn’t know this about my egg, but it wasn’t very surprising. The pintrest post also identified my egg as a quail egg, which is nice to know. Two other websites also appeared when I googled Kingspoint Designs, each selling decorated eggs. I thought it was kind of weird that Google pulled up both sites when neither identified their egg’s manufacturer. The item numbers of the eggs on one of the websites have the same format (#XXXX) as the item number on my box. I tried calling both sellers, but neither answered. What I did learn from these websites is that the eggs are decorated in the Fabergé style, and this is where the fun began.

Egg decorating and gifting is a long standing Slavic tradition, originating in pagan times, and then adapted into the Christian tradition. According to this tradition, the first real Easter Egg (basically just an egg) was given to the Roman Emperor Tiberius by Mary Magdalene. When she told him of Christ’s resurrection, Tiberius said “Nobody can rise from the dead ….. this is as hard to believe as it is to believe this egg can turn red!” The egg turned red, and so comes the possible origin of the egg painting tradition. Even before this event, eggs had been a symbol of life and renewal.

The story goes that Tsar Alexander III wanted to give his wife, Empress Marie Fedorovna, an Easter egg inspired by one once owned by the Fedorovna’s aunt, which she had admired as a child. Easter was the biggest holiday of the year in the russian Orthodox Church, prompting the highest echelons of St Petersburg society to present jeweled gifts to their loved ones. In 1885, the Tsar goes to Peter Carl Fabergé, a world renowned jeweler, with the idea of a precious Easter egg as a surprise for Fedorovna. Here’s the result:

_68158251_heneggIf a gold egg coated in white enamel with a gold yolk and a gold hen with ruby eyes inside isn’t enough for you, then maybe you feel like Tsar Alexander III because the hen originally contained a gold and diamond replica of the imperial crown with a separate ruby pendant suspended inside. The Empress was so happy that she received an egg ever year after. The tradition continued for fifty years until Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra were killed in the Russian Revolution. After the first egg Fabergé was given full range as to the eggs design, the only rule was there had to be a surprise. I found this part particularly interesting because it explains why my egg opens even though it is so small. It simply continues the tradition of being a vessel for a surprise. The other imperial eggs are super ornate and cool and some, like the Trans Siberian with it’s wind up train on the top left, have automated parts. I am dying to touch one of these eggs, feeling the small details and getting to know them better like DeWaal does with his netsuke, but alas I only have pictures. You can see them here if you’d like: http://www.mieks.com/eng/eggs.htm

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.13.53 PMWhat I find funny is that my sister and I have always had this, appreciation let’s say, for gaudiness and excess. We fell in love with high tea and went to the Russian Tea Room, which is why I wasn’t surprised to find Russia in my egg’s ancestry; upstairs in the tea room I remember seeing this almost horrible gold tree with glowing glass eggs hanging off it (on the opposite side of the room is a large glass bear juggling these four metallic balls, it’s pretty hysterical). So in hindsight, my pink egg seems to be the start my sister and I developing our sense of taste together, while also starting the tradition of her always getting me birthday presents, and me always forgetting. Maybe one day I’ll get her a real Fabergé egg and that’ll make up for it.

The First Call toward a Second Look

IMG_0854 (1)I left off my last blog with the intention of communicating with two sisters, my great aunts, Germaine and Rosemary Door– Two women that practically hold the key to my heritage. I obtained their number and was able to briefly speak with Rosemary this past weekend. She is 93 years old and currently living in Detroit, Michigan with her sister Germaine. They are quite remarkable. They still Ski and tend to their horses; she told me that there was not a day that passes where her age dictates the way she lives. What a treat it was to speak with her. She was able to provide some additional information off the top of her head, which I will share here. However, she plans to mail me more information from her archives she has stowed away that will hopefully arrive this week. I am excited to learn more about Paulina Byllott as well as other figures of my family. Furthermore, I am excited to learn more about Rosemary and Germaine themselves and continue to develop this new found familial relationship.

After much confusion trying to calculate the genealogy. Paulina Byllott is my great, great grandmother. Paulina Byllott traveled to America from Germany with her widowed mother and brother in 1886. Unfortunately, her brother passed at an early age due to a tragic drowning accident. She was a humble, prayerful woman who married August Byllott in 1887. They had four children: Paul, Aloise (my great grandfather), Sophie (Rosemary and Germaine’s mother), and Rosanne. Paulina was a housewife and August was a blacksmith for a ship building company, following in the steps of his father who was the ship captain of couple of vessels that traveled around Europe.

Paulina received this necklace because her and August were benefactors of St. Bonaventure Monastery. The Gothic influenced monastery is a complex of religious buildings located in Detroit, Michigan. The Monastery was established in 1882. Initially it was intended to serve the Catholic Clergy and churches in the area but it also provided aid for the poor, especially during the Great Depression where the monastery was providing up to 3500 meals per day through its soup kitchen. The Capuchin Friars who presented her with this gift were monks whose mission was to attend to simply aIMG_0853nd directly to the spiritual and other basic needs of the people, especially those of the poor and disenfranchised, promoting justice for all. Apart of their mission was “partnering,” which supported the idea of sharing gifts and responsibility to fulfill the mission of the monastery. With that said, Rosemary believes that the monks gave this necklace to her in gratitude for her faithful dedication and monetary donations. The significance of the beading pattern is still a mystery. I have searched high and low to figure out what the particular name for that beading design or it relationship to anything sacred importance, but I have come up empty handed. Along with this necklace, August and Paulina’s name was engraved on a plaque and placed above one of he windows in St. Josephs church, which was attached to the monastery. Unfortunately, I do not have any photographs of that.

From what I was able to obtain Paulina, as I mentioned earlier, was humble and prayerful. She had a number of friends and was very well known among the clerical community. She became widowed in 1940 when August passed away. Fifteen years later she passed away in 1955, in her late 80’s from a combination of heart problems and old age. However, she was never bed ridden. Rosemary said she passed peacefully in her sleep one evening that year.

Although there are still gaps to fill pertaining to the character of Paulina and her necklace, I feel rather satisfied with what I have been able to learn so far. The element of mystery that this object has, I believe to a certain degree, transcends the true physical and personal reality of the object. I understand the benefits and importance of being able to thoroughly understand the ins and outs of an object; its physical implications and applications, its relationship to the world and those surrounded by it, etc. However, with our inability to travel back in time it is impossible to witness, first hand, the interactions that were made with an object at a given time. I apologize about the cliché I am about to pose, but this mystery leaves room for our imagination’s. I find with this situation particularly I am able to combine the foundational story of who Paulina Byllott was along with the picture of the necklace and meditate, more so fantasize about the relationship between my great great grandmother and this beautiful necklace in a more vivid and intimate way…Where did she wear this necklace? What is it worn for clerical occasion or daily? Did she IMG_2453wear it at all? How did she react when she first received it? Why was this necklace given to Sophie, then to Rosemary and finally to my mother and not originally to Rosanne her other daughter? Did she receive any other merit for her dedication? I could probably pose another handful of questions that will remain unanswered.

Despite my rant I am intrigued though I will be receiving more information and once it is in my possession I shall post it here to share with you all.

Alice in Wonderland

This week my object is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The book is particularly important to me for personal reasons, but the book itself has a history all of its own. Lewis Carroll was born Charles Dodgson and was actually not a writer at all. Dodgson was a professor who taught elementary mathematics at Oxford. He had a passion for photography at an early age and a particular affinity for young girls. Most outstanding of which was his fondness for the real Alice, Alice Liddell. As the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Alice Liddell had her own tutors and was well known in the area around Cheshire. Dodgson took a liking to her over the dean’s other two daughters, which is why all of his stories focus on Alice. These stories began as short tales that he told Alice and her two older sisters. While many readers have speculated whether or not the author experimented with hallucinogenic drugs to come up with his fantastical stories, the reality behind the tales of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is that they each began as Dodgson’s creative fairy tales. Carroll used to tell stories to the three girls, but also liked Alice the best.

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The cover of the book is calendared, meaning that it has a plastic feel in your hands. The pages that actually contain the text are made of newspaper style paper and are held together with a perfect binding. Ironically, this technique is not perfect at all. In fact, this style simply means that the pages are sewn together and then glued into the binding with a temporary adhesive. Ultimately, the perfect binding technique can only hold it together for so long. These physical properties of this specific copy were originally pretty standard to each issue, but of course that changed once it came into my possession. As you can see, this copy is missing quite a bit from its front cover and first few pages. These small bits were actually chewed off by a bunny that was just as hungry if not hungrier than Eric Carle’s caterpillar. My bunny, Stormy, chewed off the corner of the cover and the few beginning pages, luckily, he never made it to any of the actual story.

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Besides these physical properties, it also has a library barcode on the spine that indicates that it once belonged to a local library. In fact, it belonged to my high school library, but I managed to steal it and kept it with me through all these years. This was not the first book that I stole, but it was one of the more meaningful. I fell in love with the story the first time that I read it and decided that I needed to keep this book. Fortunately, I never ended up in any trouble for stealing, but this origin added something extra special to the book that I knew made it something that no one else can ever own. This story of how it came to my possession along with the story of its desecration by rabbit teeth makes it a unique object that could only be found on my bookshelf.

A Little Plastic Lion

My first reaction to this assignment was fairly quotidian in manner; the complete and utter emptiness of thought(not to mention the terrific horror that comes along with it), the denial in the form of procrastination, and, finally, the realization that you had it all figured out all along. Nonetheless, I was still quite trepidacious to chose my object in lieu of my ruminations of inadequacy concerning the probable formidable craftsmanship or somehow regal significance(yes this is how my mind works) of my classmates’ objects, but what secured my decision is in this cheap, horribly crafted, plastic sculpture was the realization that is was beautiful because of the significance it carried and the sodality of emotions between the parties involved, not because of the manifestation of some mysterious idea of Beauty(with the ideology of aesthetics put aside for now).

Enough of my sentiment. The figure stands 4cm off of the ground, having the length of about and inch. The back is of a pale orange dissipating gradually to a white underbelly, which is embossed with LION CHINA, and paws made flat to stand on a flat surface. The legs are parsed as if the lion where in stride. The voluptuous mane encircles the head having the hue of a distractedly hyperbolic orange; an orange that probably does not exist anywhere in nature(pardon my own hyperbolizing). The mane is streaked with minute indentations to signify neatly cropped tendrils of hair and the eyes are incongruously directed with small black dots, which makes you think there is probably something wrong with this lion upon viewing it. The snout is stubby leading to ill-formed nostrils and a slightly descending parabola indentation for a mouth. Two small commas rotated at 180 degrees make up the small lips. The mouth is closed, so there was no artistic endeavor to mold teeth. At the opposite end, extends a slender tail slopping downwards until it levels off with a clump resembling a snakes head.

 

The Red Wings Jersey… Again

Beyond what’s initially obvious about a hockey jersey, there may be a few questions left unanswered as to who it belonged to, where it came from and ultimately what it’s used for at the current moment. As many of you already know, my father is or was, depending on how you look at it, Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and in many ways the jersey itself is representative of his accomplishments and life in general. Considering that my dad came from the small-ish town of Parma, Ohio with no previous connections to the entertainment industry or the like, he’s what I would consider to be a pretty successful and lucky person. As a result, my dad and indirectly the jersey itself are a lot to live up to, but being that my dad is a really humble and warm guy, it doesn’t really ever seem like that. More often than not, he’s encouraging me to get in trouble, make mistakes and have fun more than anything else in my life because he knows that I’m straight-laced and goal driven. In a lot of ways, my dad sits on both of my shoulders equally, spurring me on to be both fun and responsible simultaneously all the while being a good dad, despite not seeing him all that much.

So in that case, the jersey itself is very representative of my relationship with my dad. I cherish it. I take it off its hanger maybe once every few months either to just look at it or to wear it somewhere because my friends think it’s fascinating. But likely I think most people get the wrong idea when I wear it out; “Is that THE jersey?”, “Why would he give something up like that?”, “YOUR DAD IS WHO!?”. So for the sake of the matter, I’ll explain the origins behind this exact jersey of mine.

This particular jersey was given to my dad in 2002 by some very overzealous Cub’s officials in Chicago for what I’m assuming was at that time the 15th anniversary of Ferris Bueller. Like any movie that glorifies an American city that isn’t LA or New York, Bueller made Chicago fun and lively, and absolutely demystified any preconceived notions of the city being a sleepy, midwestern burg. For that matter, my Dad was invited to Chicago to this particular Cub’s game to essentially just say hi and be a good sport. He was invited down from the box seat that the city had given him and as he got down to the field, a Wrigley Stadium staff member handed him the fresh, Gordie Howe jersey to put on. He then sung the National Anthem, shook a few hands and came back up to the box to sit with me, my mom and my sister. A couple of years later, my dad gave me the jersey along with a few other things he had kept over the years from his various jobs, including a Ranger’s jersey with our name on the back and a fez.

Other than those anecdotes about my dad, the jersey itself is pretty un-extraordinary. The player who the jersey originally belonged to was a man named Gordie Howe, who played for the Detroit Red Wings from 1946 to 1971. Nicknamed “Mr. Hockey”, Gordie Howe won four Stanley Cups for the Red Wings and is generally considered to be “one of the greatest athletes in the sport of hockey”.

http://www.gordiehowe.com/?p=45

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Revisiting the 1937 French Missal

IMG_3714The entire history of my object, the 1937 prayer book or missal, has been completely flipped on its head. The post I wrote last week prescribed the missal to my grandmother, Marguerite Costes. I’ve been trying to remember how I came to this conclusion. I came across the prayer book a few years ago when I was looking through my father’s office in our basement in our home in Rye,NY. I love looking through my father’s old family memntoes and I came across this missal. The black leather, it’s small shape, and thin pages intrigued me and I asked my father if I could hold onto it for a while. He opened up the book and saw it was French hymns, and must have thought it belonged to his mother. He didn’t see the front page of the book that inscribed ‘Madame Costes.’ After all, it had been kept in a box in my father’s unorganized office, collecting dust and he hadn’t examined it in years.

That was several years ago. The prayer book remained in my desk drawer until this assignment prompted me to bring it into class. When I ask my father about the missal I never hesitate to say “Grandma Marguerite’s prayer book.” He has no reason to question the precedent that the missal belonged to his mother, a devout Catholic. The probability of the missal belonging to his mother was very high. We get talking about the book. I say it was published in 1937. My father then remembers how in France children get first communion around age 12 and that this must have been a gift to my grandmother for her first communion because 1937 would have put her at age 12. This all seemed so very plausible.

IMG_3719After I wrote my first blog post, I called my father again to find out more about the history of the missal. We talk about my grandmother growing up in Gagny, her meeting my grandfather in Paris and marrying him in 1942. I quickly mentioned the beautiful inscription of the book and stop when I read it outloud. “Madame Costes.” “Madame! Madame!” I let out a long sigh and relay to my father how stupid I was to think this belonged to my mother. When it obviously belonged to her mother, Yvonne Petit Costes, my great grandmother. Madame is the equivalent to ‘Mrs.” in English. If the book belonged to my grandmother Marguerite, it would have read “Mademoiselle Costes or Mlle. Costes, the equivalent of ‘Miss.’ My father immediately says, “Oh no. That’s Mémée’s book.’ Just to be sure, I text him a photo of the signature and without missing a beat he says “That’s Mémée’s handwriting. No question about it.” (Mémé is grandmother in French but my Father, for some reason, always added an extra ‘e’.( While I’m busy thinking how stupid I was to make this mistake, I ask my father how he didn’t know and he relays how I kept calling it Grandma Marguerite’s prayer book. Why would we question that?

After some self-deprecation, I’m excited to know the narrative of this entire history of the 1937 missal has changed. My father then began to tell me about the life of Yvonne, his Mémée. ( I refer to Yvonne as Mémée in this post because that’s all I’ve ever known her as.) Mémée was born in 1900 in Paris, the eldest of three. Growing up in a working middle class family with two brothers, faith was always central to her existence. A devout Catholic, she always wanted to join a convent but her parents pushed Yvonne to marry. So in 1923, Yvonne Petit married Paul Costes. In 1924, Yvonne gave birth to my grandmother, Marguerite Yvonne Costes. Soon after Marguerite was born, Yvonne and Paul split and she raised Marguerite in Gagny, a suburb of Paris. Mémée raised Marguerite in Gagny and her parents soon moved in with her to help raise Marguerite. Family and her faith were the two most important things to her.

My father has no idea who gave Mémée the 1937 missal. However, we know that in 1937 Marguerite was 12, and Memee was 37. The missal accompanied her to mass at the beautiful church Saint Germain-des-Prés  in Gagny. A beautiful cathedral, the place of worship must have been a central spot to the missal. Mémée worked at BNP, Banc Nationale de Paris on Opera Plaza and always worked very hard. She lived through the Nazi occupation of Paris, and witnessed an ever fast and changing world.

Saint-Germain-des-pres (photo from the church's webite)

Saint-Germain-des-pres (photo from the church’s webite)

In 1947 Marguerite married John J. Ward Jr, in Paris. My grandfather John fought in World War II in Paris and after the war, stayed in France to sell excess army equipment. Marguerite came to his office looking for a secretarial job, and the two fell in love. Mémée was sad to see her daughter move to America but alas, she remained in Gagny. The years between 1947-1995 are a mystery for the missal’s use. The missal stayed in Gagny with Mémée. The missal accompanied the move from the house in Gagny, where she raised Marguerite,  to a small apartment across the street. My father is not sure if this missal went to mass with her throughout this long span because hymns and content changed.

In 1995, Mémée passed of a stroke at her home Gagny. My father lost his mother in 1989 and that took the life out of her. I went to Gagny with my older sister and parents to my Mémée’s  funeral but I don’t remember it. I was only three at the time. A few months after the funeral my father went back to Gagny to clean out Mémée’s apartment. He came across the Missal and kept it because of the music it contained. My father, a talented composer, loves anything and everything having to do with music. So my father brought the missal on the plane back to New York and it stayed in his office. Until I discovered it a few years ago.

Mémée was an extremely important figure to my father. I’ve always wanted to learn more about her and through this missal I am. Mémée loved her faith dearly and it was the fixture in her life.

Handmade Scarf

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The object I chose is a fringed scarf that I hand made about five years ago. The scarf is about five feet long including the length of the fringe. In width the scarf spans 30 stitches across. The material is 100% acrylic yarn of two different colors. A majority of the scarf is beige with 4 rows of orange at the end to add an accent color. At one end the orange stripe is detaching because of a missed stitch. These orange and beige colors are also the colors used in the fringe at each end of the scarf. I crocheted the scarf myself over the course of about 3 weeks.

Despite its simplistic materials and physical appearance, the handcrafted nature of the object makes it something special. All of the work and time that went into crafting this gift gives it more meaning than if I had simply purchased a scarf. Five years ago I lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer, but more importantly, my grandmother lost the love of her life. Since they were married the only time they were ever apart was during the hours that he had to work. Every morning she would stand on the front steps and wave goodbye to him as he drove away. The day he passed away was the last day she every waved him goodbye.

Obviously, the next birthday would be difficult for her because he would not be by her side. So I decided to make something that would give her a bit of comfort. That’s how the scarf came into existence. The small stripe of orange at the bottom was my grandfather’s favorite color, which incorporated a little piece of him into the scarf. I made her and my father matching scarves that they both opened during their shared birthday party. I still am not sure whether she was more excited about the memory of him in the scarf or the fact that her son that shares his name had a matching one.

At the beginning of this month the scarf came back into my possession. With all six of her children surrounding her, my grandmother was reunited with the love of her life on December 26, 2014. She was one of the more amazing women that I’ve been lucky to have in my life. Although the nurses in intensive care continuously said that she was the lucky woman to have six children and twelve grandchildren with her as she passed. Both sides were lucky to have each other, which is why the scarf became something more than a scarf when my father handed it to me earlier this month.

Not only does this simple article of clothing continues to connect me to both my grandfather and my grandmother, but it also connects me to my father who owns the only other one in existence. This scarf symbolizes my family itself in a way because without their lives there would be none of us, without their love we would not be here today. Finally, this scarf reminds me of what kind of person I want to be. Both of my grandparents put everyone else before themselves, cared for everyone in their community as if they were family and loved unconditionally. That’s the kind of life I want to live. That’s what this scarf reminds me to do every day I look at it and wear it. That’s what gives this object value.

Coins and Music Books

The tattered pages of my Grandfather’s music book hold some of America’s best loved songs from the time. The blue facade, although covered in veins of old age, is decorated in tiny notes and stars, that surround the title. “America’s Best Loved Songs: The Great Standards” in a range of soft to more serious fonts. The bottom reads”For the Professional Musician Only”. From the front you can see pages sticking out, as they’ve fallen from the comfort of the spine. Ripped and bent edges stick out like overgrown vines. Once the book is opened, you can flip from”unchained melody” to “fools rush in” with relative ease. And, although as the title suggests it is a rather “standard” book of music, it has much greater meaning for me. Each rough, yellowed page, is a symbol of something my Grandfather used to play. His hasty highlighting through the measures remind me, that this book, like many other collections of music, are living, breathing documents. They can be altered, in one way or another to fit the need or taste of the musician who is playing it. That maybe the most significant thing about this book to me. I’m not only able to play songs my Grandfather played, I’m able to play them how he would. And, as I flipped through until the very end, looking at the title “Mazl”, a song I’m unfamiliar with, I let the book fall forward, to a close. And, on the back, I see, what can undoubtedly, especially knowing my Grandfather, be a coffee stain. And to me, that just made the book all the better.

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The necklace with the thin silver chain, that has the quarter sized coin hanging from it, and the gold frame, has a history, much longer than it’s chain. Found by the scuba diver/treasure hunter Mel Fischer off the coast of Florida, the Atocha coins were once on  Spanish galleon ships, long before they were found on the bottom of the ocean floor.   One, side has a large cross engraved in it, with a cloud like frame around that. On the other side, there is what looks like a coat of arms, some parts covered in engravings of castles and   lions, while other parts are just adorned with horizontal lines here and there. On the far right of the arms reads the letters, “POD”. What it stands for, I’m not sure. Notably a weird thing to wear everyday, this coin not only reminds me of how cool I thought the treasurer hunter and his loot was, but of my family. As we each have a coin of our own that we wear. For the most part, the coin reminds me of my dad, who has been scuba diving since he was 18 years old. The man would love to get lost in the lull of the ocean, any time, any day. It reminds me of all the times he took me out to go snorkeling. I would always follow him as he harpooned eight feet down, to get a closer look at a fish or shell. And, now that I’m beginning the process of getting my own scuba diving license, I look at the coin as helping lead up to all that. It’s been with me since I was probably twelve years old, and by then I, much like my dad, was very happy staying among the salty waves. And now, 21, graduating college and hopefully doing something enjoyable with the coming years, perhaps it’s a symbol of some adventure to come. On the ocean floor, or bobbing above them.

 

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The Found Bike Light

Found on the rail trail behind my apartment, this bike light doesn’t necessarily seem like an object the typical person would stop to pick up.

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Almost in perfect condition, the bike light is pretty unscathed for something that was nestled in the dirt and probably had quite the fall from a moving person’s belt while they were cycling. This object is bright candy apple red and black, and about 2 inches in width, 1 inch in height. It must have fallen off of someone pretty recently before I snatched it up and maybe they even had bought it recently, because the light works quite well.

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Okay, so whenever I find things and decide on keeping them I feel a twinge of guilt. Yet it also reminds me of geocaching (a fun pastime: defined as an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a GPS or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world)  and adventure, like finding buried treasure (even if this item was not exactly hidden) and hey, if I saw the person who actually dropped it, I would definitely have gave it back to them!

Moving on, the reason why I kept this object: it is memento for another set of objects that always hold dearly to my heart: bicycles!

My father owns three different types of bikes, I have two, and my mother has one. So that makes six bikes for my small family that fit snugly into our garage, somehow, among other objects. (And I still would like to own more!)

It took me a while to learn how to ride. My dad taught me in the parking lot of the school across the street from my childhood house and it took me until the ripe age of 10 to finally get the hang of it without the training wheels. Before learning, my parents forced me into their bike escapades by putting me onto this contraption which turned my dad’s bike practically into a tricycle. Prior to that, I would sit in a little trailer, which I adored because it was like a mini moving tent. They even found ways to bring our dogs on the bike rides.

Now my father is almost 60 and handicapped and somehow, miraculously, the man can still ride a bicycle even though he can barely walk. This mode of transportation is extremely important to me because at the age of 20, I still don’t have a driver’s license, but for the past 10 years I’ve enjoyed pedaling myself to places I would like to go and feeling the wind in my hair. It’s exhilarating and feels rewarding when you reach your destination. To me, a bicycle is a magical object.

My parents have taken their bikes up to New Paltz to ride on the very trail I found this light on.

I’m thinking of giving my dad the light for his birthday so he can put it to good use.

The Charm Bracelet

The sterling silver bracelet that now sits on the table in front of me is also twenty years old, but it does not remember the world like I do. I’ve worn it no more than a dozen times (primarily weddings, funerals, and church events) and yet it remains as one of the most important pieces of my life-story.

IMG_3684The single silver chain, the spine of the bracelet if you will, is just about six inches long, and dips about one inch below my wrist when each end is clasped together. Branching off of that delicate spine are twenty-four, unevenly spaced, silver charms. Each charm (one for every year I’ve been alive, and four extra for ‘milestones’) tells a different story, some of which I remember, and others that have been passed down to me by my mother via the image on the charm. Looking first at the tiny clasp on the left end of the chain, and moving sequentially to the open hook eye on the right side, you’ll see a small purse, with one semi-circular strap and four rows of tiny inlaid diamonds. Then a 2-dimensional heart with the words “Sweet 16” cut out in the middle, followed by a 2-D “2000”. After that there is a racing bike, a musical eighth note, a hollow trolley with tiny red lettering on the top of the car that reads “San Francisco”, and a Scottish terrier standing alert with his shorthair tail sticking straight up.

Next, a graduation cap with the tassel switched over to the right side and the year “2012” right below the brim, a track shoe with four miniature spikes on the bottom of the sole, and right next to it a different pair of shoes; two baby booties, each with a single small pearl at the end (as if they were capped by fuzz-balls). Once again there is a 2-D heart, except this one is solid silver all the way through and has my initials carved in beautiful curving script, “CCR”.

Sitting directly three inches down the spine and taking the place of charm #12 is my favorite of them all; the “Happy Birthday” cake, decorated with icing all around its perimeter, and a hinge on the back which used to allow me to open the top of the cake. In the bottom of the hollow cake there was a tiny golden candle standing straight up. From what I remember, it had a spiral design going all the way up to the top, where there was a little golden flame waiting to be wished upon and blown out.

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Next to the cake is a solid silver soccer ball, the Eiffel tower, a catholic cross, a 2-D laptop that says “You’ve Got Mail,”a two-person canoe, a ballerina in a tutu with her toes pointed in fifth position, a round medallion with a dog’s paw-print engraved on the surface, and a school bus that labels itself (just in case we didn’t recognize its iconic shape). Finally reaching the last inch of the spine, there is a nameless book with the number “12” engraved on the back, a ‘traditional’ artist’s pallet with a few specks of green and yellow paint left on the surface, a golden retriever (also standing alert, although his tail is much more relaxed than the terrier’s), and last but not least a simple 2-D scalloped shell.

According to my mother, each one of these charms is representative of a certain time or event in my life. She chose them every year, from the same jewelry store, to be given to me as a gift on the same day each April. The delicate silver chain was a timeline of my life, and every charm she purchased to adorn it has been a reminder of my accomplishments.

On the 22nd of April, I would open the white & silver striped box from the jeweler and spend about five minutes turning the charm over and over in my hand, getting to know it’s beveled edges and thanking my mother for buying it. But as soon as I would set it down, she would take it back and tell me that she would bring the charm and the bracelet back to the jeweler so that they could be joined. I always watched as she slid the spine back into a plastic bag and dropped the charm in before she sealed it shut. I wouldn’t see it again until it came out of that bag the same time a year later.IMG_3710                                                                                 IMG_3705

Truthfully, this bracelet and each one of these purposely ‘special’ charms are nothing more than a reminder of how differently my mom and I remember the story of my life.

I do not remember ever liking Scottish terriers, or having any sort of party for my sixteenth birthday, or being allowed to use the family computer, let alone have an email account. I was downright terrible at singing, and my dad and I almost drowned on that canoe-trip that she chose not to go on.

I do remember, however, that I absolutely despised catholic church school as a child, and that I only ran track when I was thirteen because my mom told me I needed to get more exercise, and that my absolute favorite charm (the birthday cake) was glued shut when I tried to open it on my tenth birthday because she “didn’t want me to break the candle”.

I do remember trying to build memories with my mom that were heavier than this silver bracelet, and trying for years to prove to her that I was responsible enough to chose my own charm.

But for right now, I look at the bracelet for inspiration; it is a reminder to stand up straight, with a spine that was not designed by anyone else and to fill in the rest of my timeline with charms and accomplishments that are important to me.

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