Monday, March 20, 2006

The Case of the Missing Marble

My grandmother has always had an unhealthy fixation with material things. She also takes great pride in her family heritage, though I am increasingly skeptical of many of the things she told me about my ancestors. The materialism and familial history fetishes frequently manifest themselves in an obsession with bequeathing her possessions.

It is imperative (to her) that these items stay in the family. Many years ago she gave my parents a clock that we generally agreed was hideous, and we sold it off in a garage sale. After my parents divorced, she demanded the clock back from my mother.

When I was a child, I used to visit each set of grandparents, one in California, one in Colorado, for a few weeks each summer. Once as I was packing up and getting ready to fly back home to Oregon from Denver, Grandmother sat me down and gave me a very special gift.

It was a glass marble. She told me it was very old, that it had come over with the family when they left Scotland for America in 1773, and that in fact it had been with them when they arrived in Massachusetts on the last ship to enter before the British closed the port following the Boston Tea Party. I was about eight at the time, and this impressed me tremendously.

I thought the marble itself was rather ugly. It was big and scratched and dented and inside were some swirly patterns in yellow and pale green that I thought were kind of weird. But it didn’t matter. This was a genuine heirloom that had been in my family for over 200 years, and now it was going to be mine. I was extremely honored by this gift. I promised to take very, very good care of it. I went downstairs and placed it securely inside one of the pockets of my suitcase.

When I got home to Portland, I couldn’t find the marble.

I looked everywhere. I took out each item of clothing and shook it and shook it again. I looked inside everything where the marble could have gone. I looked under my bed. I looked every last place I could think of, but I never found it. I had lost Great Great Great Grandfather’s marble. I was so ashamed. I never told anyone, because I couldn’t bear for Grandmother to know that I had lost this special gift.

Last month when I was home visiting my family, my dad was telling me about a trip he took up to Alaska to visit my cousins, and was saying that he’d taken up some family gifts. He just happened to mention that Grandmother gave “Grandfather’s Marble” to my cousin Will’s little boy.

So after all this time, I can only assume that after giving me this present and making me promise to take extra special care of it, she changed her mind and took it back out of my suitcase without telling me.

And here I thought I was the one missing a marble.


Matthew said...

When my grandfather died, my father made a bit "to do" over parceling out all his odds and ends to us kids. It was eerily reminiscent of a piƱata.

Anonymous said...

Either that, or she had a supply of marbles to dish out as and when.


kr said...

sigh ... yucky.

little-cicero said...

How did this betrayal make you feel? Did you simply brush it off a senility or take offense to it?

Andy said...

I think it was a crappy thing to do to a kid, but given all the things my grandmother has done over the years, I have to say it's just par for the course. It would be silly of me to be actually "upset" by it. In a way, it's mildly amusing, even.

kr :) said...

Have you read "Drama of the Gifted Child"? I recommended it to like Everyone about a year ago. I even have been sending Goodwill copies to friends who I know won't get around to buying it. You really should read it. Want the next one ;) ?

Jade said...

Could also be that she was testing you... maybe she snuck the marble back to see if you would admit to "losing" it? Testing your abilities to handle heirlooms after the clock was sold by your folks?