The Family Jewels

Back on this post I erroneously claimed that I had given two items, currently on my sister’s desk (and one underneath), to my mother as Christmas presents. I assumed that my sister had rescued them from a trip to the Goodwill store or some worse fate when we moved dad out of his apartment.

If you read the comments attached to that post you know that this wasn’t the case at all. The pencil holder and bench were actually gifts I gave my sister when I was in junior high.

I also mentioned a seagull that I had given mom. Nik suggested I ask dad where it came from. (I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me. He’s sitting across the hall as I type this.) According to him, I did manage to get that one right. I bought it in Alaska when I was in college and spent a summer inĀ  Palmer. Mom was getting tired of too many duck decoys, so I bought the seagulls instead.

In the original post I said something disparaging about the birds, calling them a bit kitschy. That might have been unfair. Even though they aren’t high art, they manage to reproduce exactly what seagulls do when they’re hanging around a pier. Both dad and I agree the poses are very realistic. You can decide for yourself because I’ve included a picture below.

The family jewels

In defense of my assumption that I made the pen holder for mom, I probably did make one for mom. As you can see from the photo, while practical, it’s a very easy project for a Junior Higher to make and I probably made five or six of them — who knows, maybe a dozen — that first semester in wood shop. I know I had one on my desk for years. Dad said mom had one and he may have had one too, and of course I gave the one pictured above to my sister as well. For all I know, the pen holders were probably like zucchini in July … the sort of thing you stick into the back seat of cars at church if people are foolish enough to leave their doors unlocked.

And one final question: Are memories like sounds in a forest? Are my other childhood memories still false just because I haven’t told anybody what they are?

aah, I’ll leave that question for the philosophers.

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Trinkets, Knick-Knacks, and Doodads

I am writing this in my sister’s office where she keeps all her music and teaching aids. On the desk are two items that I find myself starring at when my mind is on the way from here to there or on nothing in particular. One is a sculpture (sculpture? Actually it’s a bit kitschy for the solemn designation “sculpture”) of three seagulls sitting on a pier. I gave the seagulls to my mother as a Christmas gift many years ago.

The other is a walnut penholder made from five pieces of walnut laminated together, cut into a cube with an angled face, and finished with nine holes drilled into the top to hold pencils and pens. I know the specifics of the pen holder because I made it in Jr. High shop class. It too was a gift to my long-suffering mother. (Along with a walnut bench that may also be sitting in my sister’s office. But I’m not so confident that it is the bench I made.)

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to lay claim to these items when my dad moved out of his apartment into my sister’s house. Dad was busily trying to pass all his stuff on to us kids so we wouldn’t have to deal with it when he’s gone.

The thing is, I have little interest in trinkets, knick-knacks, and doodads, so when the offer came to gather these things up and take them home with me, I declined and rejoiced that there were two less things to clutter up my life.

By default my sister ended up with a lot of my parents’ things that no one necessarily wanted at their house, but at the same time, that no one was ready to just toss in the trash or give away. There are pots and pans, a clock, some books, and of course the seagulls and penholder.

The seagulls are a story in and of themselves and represent a whole chapter in my life, but they also remind me of a similar gift: a set of ceramic ducks I gave my mom another year for Christmas (that I haven’t seen since mom passed away). She collected ducks for years, and when I saw this set, it seemed the perfect gift. The mother of my best friend in high school had a ceramics store in her house. This was the seventies when painting ceramics was all the rage. Millie (and her long-suffering husband Ernie) poured, fired, and sold ceramic trinkets, knick-knacks, and doodads by the trunk full.

It turned out that the ducks were for display only and not for sale. But they were sublimely gorgeous and looked like professional stuff, not your average home made ceramic stuff. (Much later I found out they had taken hours upon tedious hours to paint.) But Millie, understanding the bumbling good intentions of a son’s attempt to buy a Christmas present for his mother, said nothing at the time and sold me the ducks for mom’s Christmas present.

The pencil holder also brought back many memories. Chief among them was the advice of some of the high school students (who were older and wiser than me): never take shop class from a man who is missing three of his fingers.

And as these memories are jogged loose while I sit here at my sister’s desk, I wonder, is my lack of interest in trinkets, knick-knacks, and doodads a virtue or a vice? And am I as disconnected from these things as I like to think? (I noticed, after all, that the ducks disappeared.) On the one hand, I consider it good to not be encumbered by too much clutter. But is the price of that freedom a loss of connection with my past? Could it be that I’ve cut off a piece of myself as cleanly as my shop teacher removed his fingers with the band saw?

I must admit, it’s been fun to have these two items sitting in front of me on a daily basis for the last couple of weeks. But I still believe I made the right decision about trinkets, knick-knacks, and doodads. As fun as the memories have been, I hope my sister doesn’t get any bright ideas and try to give me this stuff for Christmas.

Like the long gone ducks, I’m positive they’re for display purposes only.