My Dad collected quarters, match books, and stamps in big glass vases. He had jars and jars lined up on his closet shelves, each one overflowing and full. He liked things gathered and contained. Things that he found, or things that were given, or his absolute favorite, was things that he took for free. He had dozens of nail files and those little sewing kits with pearly white buttons. You never know when you might become snagged or undone.
My Mom lived her life on the other side of the coin. She didn’t collect quarters or nickels, she didn’t want things to be hidden or underneath glass. She didn’t even really like to be looked at or seen. She found curiosity and peacefulness in nature. And with a stroke of her hand, she would turn nature into something magical, like fairy beds or skirts, tables and stools. She loved treasures that were tied to the earth, the sea, and the sky.
Maybe that’s why she did what she did, climbing to the tallest building, feet from the sea, to let herself soar and eventually land. Freedom, she said, was priceless. But you really don’t collect much in those types of moments. You don’t want to remember. And not much was gathered or saved, except for that little diamond that also fell out of its place, falling in the sky. It was also freed to take its own flight. That tiny piece of clear glass, that looked fractured, even when it
was truly perfect, like her.
They must have searched diligently to find it. A needle in the haystack, or a pea under your bed. The police gave it to my Dad silently, along with the engagement ring, which she had rarely taken off, only to clean. Somehow the police knew, and they did the same. They returned both scrubbed to us, extra shiny, as if nothing had happened. Except maybe for the gold crumpling, and now the missing of her hand. The hand to wear it, to have and to hold. My Dad put both pieces of their engagement ring into a tiny black velvet jewelry box. He hid them, without saying a word, in the back of his dresser drawer, third drawer down. So neither was seen.
My mother, we were advised, couldn’t be seen either. I had pleaded for one last look. To capture my last moment seeing her versus my memory of her this morning as I was darting out the door. I would save this in my collection. Saved and safe behind the glass of my eyes. But for once, my Dad was very wise and said, “No. Knowing is enough.” This sounded strange coming from him. This man who liked things lined up and neat. And who enjoyed taking things
freely, that he wanted.
We found six business cards in her purse that night. She too had picked up the habit of gathering, it seemed. Gathering cards with photos of skyscrapers. But instead of anyone else seeing these local breathtaking views, they were hidden at the bottom of her white woven purse, so only she knew they were there. Her very own hidden collection. And the one card that she
held onto in her hand when she was found, landed with her, and her final breath-taking view.
I tried to remember the last night that I remembered her being in a state of being breathless. It had been in June and we were blowing dandelions, or wishing flowers, as she called them. We’d
danced and laughed in the backyard, watching our wishes sail and disappear in the air. I had wondered what she had wished for, what she set free that afternoon in the sky. I had wished for a summer of quiet and peace. We were all so tired and needed the anger to end. But instead,
there was now this eerie silence, and she was the only thing that had disappeared.
I had liked disappearing pennies when I was a baby, pennies and dead flies. Apparently, I looked for both, gathering and feeding on them when I found one. Treasures. We lived in the mountains where flies were plenty so I probably devoured quite a few. Pennies, since my Dad collected them, were probably rare. Those he kept.
I remember being eight and going to a fountain. I watched families throw pennies and dimes and wishes into the water which was so murky, you couldn’t see them land. I had wanted to climb in and steal them. But my mother held me back, telling me it was wrong to take away someone else’s wishes. So, we left them there, hidden, where no one knew they were there. You weren’t to take away something that wasn’t yours or to take when things weren’t freely offered.
That night, after her flying, my Dad took us out for dinner, steak, which we almost never had. All I could eat was a little bit of soup and maybe some salad. He kept offering steak and bread and potato. It was an all you could eat special, and my sister and I were wasting his money, even though we had asked to stay home. We weren’t hungry. But he didn’t listen. He kept
eating bite after bite of potato. I watched the butter drizzle into the cleft of his chin. His lips and his chin becoming oily and greasy. He said he was only trying to be generous and that he was only thinking about us. We had wanted to be home. He wasn’t good at listening.
He had repeatedly called my Mom’s insanity, “Ginny’s little problem”, which now was over. And as he ate bite after bite, my sister and I watched. He was just trying to get something for nothing. And maybe that’s why, all of a sudden, he started creeping into my room late at night.
when the house was all locked up and asleep.