In My Study: A List October 19 and 30, 2011
The bookshelves in my study are lined with books. Too many books. Books I intended to read when I retire, books gathering dust while I ply the library for more, order them online, haunt used book sales. A long, low row of journals. But, on high shelves at eye level around the room are momentos, snatches of times, ancient and modern, trinkets and toys, snippets of nature, travel echoes, family photos, well wishes from friends.
A wooden jig toy, which fascinated me, but the working of which I never mastered, its essential, wooden ‘stage’ long lost. Two tiny shells. Few cells of a hive. Small paintings by two artist friends, marble doggie from a writer friend. Subtle hint of floral pastel, water-colored by a dear heart, faraway.
Here’s a well wish for retirement from a career that took half my life away from family and the sequestered nooks and serenity of books prettily depicted on the front of the Mary Engelbreit card. Inside, a valediction from my daughter. A golden oval beside a small, heart-shaped, red-lacquered box frames her mischievous, Mona Lisa smile in her high school photo.
Come to think of it, every shelf bears photos of my daughter: in chortling infancy, self-conscious teenage, college camaraderie, exulting in soccer, basking with her fiancée, falling back on friends. In one photo, she holds her little brother, in another they hold small flags on the day they took citizenship. In yet another, she embraces me and my mother; this picture next to one of a more fortunate friend studying her own mother who lived, joyfully alert, til one hundred. Here’s an earlier photo of my own mother, recently widowed, smiling ruefully before a window reflecting Lake Minnewaska on which our house stood. In a silver frame, my Finnish grandparents; grandfather, straiaght and tall in his worsted suit, hat in hand, stands beside my beaming grandmother, who wears a brooch at the collar of her best black dress. The photo was taken on the occasion of their first grandson’s baptism.
Here, a framed magazine photo, one of the ingenious ways my mother brought art into my childhood home. A postcard of the big blue marble, A snap with our son in front of the Louvre, capturing his boyish delight in Paris; his childish handiwork: a stick-and-yarn eye-of-God. A pale blue music box that still plays ‘The Washerwomen of Venice,” harking back to my other grandmother, “Gramma-on-the-farm.”
A red-dyed, wooden, Swedish, no-nonsense nutcracker. Cross-stitched red and green, tasseled gew-gaw of Hmong handiwork, teal-dyed box of Polish handiwork, brimming with beads for a grand-daughter’s dress-up-and-play. The granddaughter’s first kindergarten painting: modernist sunshine bursting with life (she tells me it’s ‘just a design.’), waiting to be framed. A tiny turquoise dancing doll from India.
And a worn but still workable, wind-up Cinderella, the clockwork hidden under her ballroom skirt still able to propel her along predetermined lines and circles. The prince who was once attached has broken off, leaving her scarred hands spread wide as though extending an invitation. Each of these memories is an invitation. The memories invite me to write them down, let the pen or the keyboard dance, in the study.