Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stone Pillows

Hannah went to bed with a rock last night. Bethany told me about it this morning. That’s how it is when you’re 18 months apart. The youngest tells everything. Hannah has been loading up her backpack with schoolyard rocks and lugging them home to show me—every day. This one has sparkles. That one writes in chalk. I toss them out the back door and the next day she raids the playground again.

When Bethany learned to walk, she also headed straight for the rocks. She still does and the smoother and bigger the rock, the greater the value. We can’t take a walk by the creek without stopping for every chunk of concrete strewn by the sidewalk and those black river rocks are more desirable than a teddy bear. The Japanese Gardens adjacent to the Houston Zoo was a favorite picnic spot where we would go to feed the magnificent orange and white Koi but Bethany wouldn’t let go of the smooth, dark stones to throw the bread. They come by it honestly enough, I suppose. I loved rocks, collected rocks, read books about rocks, dreamed of spending my life walking all up and down and over rocks.

I dined with an amethyst when Derek and Jemma had their wedding reception at the Houston Museum of Natural History. We danced around Tyrannosaurus Rex, threw rose petals under Pterosaur, ate cake with diamonds, emeralds, and a 2000-carat topaz in the darkened corridors of the gem display lit only by the fiber optic glow on crystals. But this was a cold and distant affection. I could only stare in awe.


Now I throw my daughter’s granite pieces out the back door and beg her to stop bringing them home. Somewhere along the paved asphalt of my adulthood I forgot what rock-cold smoothness felt like—the weight and heft in my fingers—the pleasure of holding a pebble worn to glass by water. I forgot the way granite glittered in the sun like a thousand minute rainbows and made me feel so rich, so wealthy. I have forgotten how to love a rock so much I’d want to sleep with it underneath my pillow. Or, like Jacob, use it as a pillow.

In Houston, I once had dinner with a NASA engineer and his wife. Their home was a typical, early 60’s architecture desperate for remodeling. I entered their spare living room strewn with a first-grader’s toys, devoid of decoration save one very tall display case with a glass front. Glass shelves sparkled and glowed with rock formations, fossilized Trilobite, asteroids, and jeweled minerals. The man, a geologist, had scoured the world for his collection. Some were Christmas gifts from his wife. One was from somewhere beyond this planet. I held it in my palm for a very long while, mesmerized. The permanence, the history, the physicality of the stone in my hand whispered a name.

If we ever forget what it is to be a child, the rocks and stones will cry out.

6 comments:

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

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allison said...

My girls were/are also rock collectors. I was always amused when they came home and unloaded their pockets of gravel, not remembering having done the same as a child. I then realized I am an adult-onset rock collector--I have brought home stones from many places I have travelled; stones are scattered around my house from Canada (with you), Florida, Maine, New Mexico, California, however, all unmarked. Now they are chunks of forgotten times and places, weighty souvenirs of geography I could not own but somehow tried to retain.

That idyllic photo of the girls, the sun burnishing their hair, breeze you can almost feel from the swing, what a Kodak moment...

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I'm a collector of rocks. Not highly special rocks, I don't think anyone would want my stones. But they're mine and they decorate my office each with a story to tell.

Zane (he's 7) is collecting stones, shells and feathers. Oh-and correcting his dad's grammar. I love it! :)

Amy C. Moreno said...

oooh, i loved reading this. DOn't throw the rocks out! Maybe you could build some sort of special rock wall for her with any rocks you don't want to keep indoors. This was a beautiful post. I love it that you passed down your love of rocks to her somehow without her even knowing. It's like that with my love of books and my daughter's love of books. We always have too many to read, and on trips we each bring about 6 to read (to have a choice, since we can never make up our mind)
There is something special about rocks. God's people used them as memorials along their way.

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

That's a great idea Amy! I love it. We'll build a cairn or a wall (or an ashtray). Thanks!!

Leighsa said...

really enjoyed this post...I'm a rock painter ..natures canvas ..so i get the appeal. ha ha :)
http://rockartusa.googlepages.com