Archive for May, 2010

Finding My Marbles

May 25, 2010

From my journal of 2001: All my life my mom has used the phrase ‘losing my marbles’ as a metaphor for going crazy. At 90, Mother says it about as often as I call her on the phone. Her memory is what she’s losing, and it’s sad to witness. But while Mother is losing her marbles, I’ve been finding them!

It all started when my neighbor Sheila invited me to see John Edward, the famed medium; she had tickets to his local talk. It was about a year after Sheila’s husband Richard died, and we had had several discussions about the After Life and whether we believed in connections with those who’ve gone ahead. We both held hope, but professed a healthy skepticism.

At the event in Scottsdale, John Edward scooted around the room like a psychic Phil Donahue, microphone in hand, foreshadowing his performance on his TV show, Crossing Over with John Edward. At the end of the evening, he said to the audience of about 750 that we might be disappointed because no one had come through to speak to each of us, then he led us in a group relaxation exercise, then advised us to think of a loved one who had ‘crossed over’ and ask them to give us a sign: something concrete: something to hold in the palm of our hand. He said it could come within a few days or a few months, but we would know when it happened. In the exercise I tried to think of various people, but the first person who popped into my head was my dad, who had died in 1984. I put on my standard skeptic role and went on with my life, not telling a soul of this experiment.

Several weeks later I stepped out of my car at mid day in the parking lot at Costco, and spied an iridescent marble on the ground. I picked it up and put it in my purse, thinking of 8 year old Shon, whose mother had told me that the Big Boys took away his pouch of marbles when they moved to a new apartment complex. When I came back out of the store, I found another marble like the first, and put it with the first, confirming mentally my plan to give these to Shon to start a new marble collection. Within a couple of weeks I had lunch with Shon and his mom; afterward, he played with the marbles, allowing his mom and me to talk in peace.

I thought nothing more about marbles. For awhile.

Then about a month later, I pulled into my driveway in a rental car, pending a business trip the next day. Because I parked behind my own car in the driveway, when the door swung open, I was in a different location than my usual place. In the dust next to the cement was a half-hidden piece of glass. Still sitting in the car, I reached down and picked it up. When I saw that it was a cat’s eye marble, blue in color, sitting in the palm of my hand, something clicked.

When we were little, my sibs and I played with a toy from Daddy’s childhood: a big cat’s eye marble about 1 ½ inches in diameter. It was chipped by the time we were around, and flat on one side, but we liked to heft it and look at the swirl of colored glass captured inside the globe. Sitting there in the car, I thought, “Could this be the sign from Daddy?”

Since then, finding marbles has become a regular thing. I found a marble in the parking lot next to my car at work. I found a marble while on the way to pick up lunch at a conference. I found another one alongside the roadbed while on a walk.

When I next visited Mother in Texas, I opened the kitchen drawer to look for a flipper to turn my fried egg, and a light blue marble – the color of Daddy’s eyes – rolled loudly from the back to the front of the drawer! When I went to Alaska (a state my dad had wanted to visit, but never did) I woke at 3 AM to see the Big Dipper framed in the door of the tent where we slept – exactly like the Alaska State Flag! When I got to the bath house to relieve myself (the reason I had awakened) there was a bud vase on the counter that held not flowers, but cat’s eye marbles. A week later, after meeting with a new client, a Mexican National whose husband had perished as they crossed the border in the 120° heat, leading her to make a voluntary adoption plan for the baby she would not raise alone, I was astonished to see a lone marble lying on the floor of her kitchen. When I asked how come it was there since there are no children living in her apartment, she commented (through the interpreter) that it must have been left there by the little boy whose mother was her friend and lived in another apartment nearby.

When I find my marbles, I always feel loved, and like my dad is sending his approval. Sometimes, I keep them. So I have marbles tucked away in my purse, in my desk at work, in the container here at my home desk that also holds paperclips. Sometimes I leave them alone, like the one in the client’s kitchen or the one in my mom’s kitchen drawer.


My friend Diana suggested I start a ‘marble journal’ so I can record these reminders that I am loved. Here goes . . .

11-26-04 At Mother’s, in Texas. The clock next to Mother’s chair hasn’t been working; the reason was that the extension cord mounted next to her chair was plugged into itself. After she went to bed, I found that to fix it, I had to pull Mother’s chair away from the wall to reach the wall socket. There, buried in the carpet under Mother’s chair, was a light blue marble—the color of Daddy’s blue eyes! I was comforted by a sign that he’s watching over her.

1-13-05 Following Mother’s funeral, we sibs began to break up the household: boxing things to save, to take, to store for future retrieval. We family members were all working different rooms, different areas of the house. We found marbles in various places: in her bobby pins, in her junk jewelry tray, inside a drawer. Mid-afternoon, my sister Nita (who knew I was ‘finding marbles’) walked in and handed me a soft case meant for cosmetics. I opened the clasp, and inside there were about 40 marbles, many of them cat’s eye marbles. I carried them home, and they are near my computer in my home now.

5-13-05 When I was on Nantucket Island visiting a family I helped form, I was assigned to Tink’s bedroom. It was peaceful to sleep with windows wide open, a sea breeze blowing through the room and to hear the foghorn at night. On my first morning there, I was lazing on the bed, looking at my surroundings. There, in a small vase, was a bunch of marbles. Later in the day, I told my marbles story to Tink and her family.

4-12-06 I went to Missouri to visit my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday this year. We were at the Lewis and Clark exhibit in Nebraska City, and there was a bag of marbles for sale. I didn’t buy it; just seeing it there made me feel better.

6-24-06 Today Sheila wrote that she wants to get together when she gets back from her summer trip to NH. She found a marble and saved it for me. “I figured this time I am the messenger.” (I used to take her son Drew change I found, which Sheila identified as their message from Richard.)

8-31-06 My surgeon confirms that the gall stone she removed from my diseased gall bladder last week was round and black, 1.7 cm in diameter. “It looked like a big black marble,” Dr. Laura said cheerfully, with no knowledge of the meaning of that statement to me. I feel I have lost my ultimate (self-made) marble.

9-21-06 I met my Flagstaff friend, Janet at The Cheesecake Factory and we had a nice visit while we ate supper. I told her my marbles story, a followup to her forwarded email which incorporated marbles that appeared and disappeared in the text. As we left to go to our cars, we made a rest stop. Exiting the restroom, I noticed the graceful handle on the exit door that incorporated six or seven marbles in the design

7-10-07 Heather went with me to Payson on a business trip. While I worked, she took the car and explored the town which she had never before visited. When she picked me up, there was a marble she had found next to the car in the parking lot at the hotel that morning.

2-18-08 On a work holiday, I decided to pull weeds while the ground was soft from recent rains and the weeds were tender. Soon I was sitting on a palette of wilted weeds while I pulled the plants within arm’s reach, enjoying the smell of the earth and the sun on my shoulders, and a mockingbird sang from a nearby tree. I was thinking about my mom, who spent many hours of her last years contentedly pulling weeds in her yard. I spied a marble buried in the mulch. It was a blue cat’s eye marble, with one side sheared off so that it doesn’t roll. It was just the shape of the big marble that we used to play with as kids.

2-21-08 I drove to Casa Grande today, to meet with the family from Nantucket who had come to Arizona to visit Jackson’s birth family. Tink handed me four marbles from her collection, so I traded her two I had in my purse. It felt good to have my marbles story validated this way.

6-26-09 In Montana, at Gloria’s rental house, we were climbing the back stairs to go inside. From the landing, I noticed some color in the thick grass. When I investigated, I found a bright yellow marble!

8-5-09 At my new office, setting up new furniture. One of the lamps has metallic marble pulls at the end of each chain. An office suite-mate gave me a small, hinged-lidded trinket case, perfect for displaying the gift from Janet, from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.


First Mother’s Day

May 7, 2010

Mommy, what was it like on the day I was born? Oh, Little One, the sun was shining and the flowers were in bloom! The world was crisp and new!

Mommy, what was it like on the day they told you I would never be normal? The clouds gathered, Little One, and blocked the sun from my tear-filled eyes. For awhile, I thought the sun would never shine again!

El Paso, Texas. Mother’s Day. The newborn baby would remain in the hospital for another two weeks while tests were done. The New Daddy was determined to not be like other daddies – anxious and worried — so he took the car and went to Juarez with friends. Defiant, The New Mother took a short-cut through the scrub desert, down the steep sides of a sandy arroyo and up the other side, to stand on the veranda of the Army hospital and peer through the nursery window at the tiny baby girl. The New Mother’s arms ached to hold the baby she had not yet touched – if you don’t count cradling with her insides for nine months of pregnancy!

How strange it must have been to be on the inside of the hospital, looking out at this chubby woman in a pink tent dress, her only dress that fit. It might have made someone uncomfortable to see the tears rolling down the cheeks of The New Mother, but no one offered a word of solace or advice. The New Mother peered in at the baby, sleeping with an IV needle in her freshly-shaved scalp, the needle pumping in medication to control the seizures that started shortly after delivery. Whenever the baby moved a smidgen, The New Mother tilted her head like any new parent, to glimpse a nose, an ear, and identify whose looks the baby inherited.

An hour was all the time allotted to The New Mother to observe her child on this Mother’s Day. Then, it was home again, through the sand, with grit accumulating between her toes in the pink, open-toed sandals that matched the tent dress.

Such emptiness. Such utter loneliness. The New Mother wailed her misery. She cried in anger and frustration. “IT’S NOT FAIR!” In self-loathing, the New Mother pulled scissors from her sewing basket. What would she do? Without looking in the mirror, she cocked her head sideways and whacked off her shoulder-length hair below her ears. More wails. Now what had she done!

A knock came at the door — the door with the ill-fitting frame inside the 18” thick adobe walls, where the wind let in the sand. The door made a scraping sound as The New Mother opened it. There on the threshold stood a wizened Old Crone – the only words to describe this hunched-over dark woman with a shawl over her head and shoulders. She spoke not a word of English, but consoled The New Mother in soft Spanish. The New Mother was at last soothed and relieved. Closing the door, saying adios to the only person who came forth to say she cared on this, her First Mother’s Day.