Swedish Vase

Hand blown Swedish glass vase. Bought at the Kosta Boda glass factory in Stockholm, Sweden. 6 inches. Weighs about 3 pounds.

My family went to Europe the year I turned 19 and at one of our stops we toured a glass factory.

In each country I had been collecting charms for a bracelet – Mother’s great idea. This was totally my own: impractical, breakable and odd. I didn’t have a house or even an apartment but I loved its weight and color.

A measure of that love is that I’ve managed to keep it intact through 13 major moves. (I wrote them down to count, ignoring little moves like the summer I housesat for various ballet dancers in NYC, trying to get a foothold myself.)

The vase is now displayed in the cabinet my sister gave me. You can see it sitting next to the conch. I would put it out where it could catch the sun but our dogs have very active tails and complete disregard for furniture – bumps while playing are part of the fun!

Collapsible Cup

Collapsible Cup. In some kind of metal, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. 3.5 inches when extended, but only 3/4 inch collapsed.

I believe this belonged to my grandmother on my mother’s side. (The one who saved the picture from the trash was on my father’s side.) She wasn’t a bicyclist to my knowledge, but she was a Girl Scout. She loved camping and streams. In fact, her Girl Scout nickname was Rushy, because she liked to sit by the rushing water.

My family always camped and she often came along. One trip was to Yellowstone and we kids were excited to see bears. The first night, half-way to the park, we camped out on a hillside along the road. Something was always forgotten on these trips; this time it was matches. Mother and Daddy drove to the nearest town, while we kids stayed with our grandmother (to guard the unpacked camping equipment, I presume.) She kept scaring us, pointing into the dark and saying, “Do you hear something? Is that a bear?” We were relieved when our parents returned, bringing the car, a place of safety, and the bustle of fixing dinner.

The next morning, Daddy said he thought he’d heard something snuffling around the car in the night and sure enough, there were bear paw prints in the dust on the car. Wow, what a close call!

I was in my mid-twenties when Daddy heard me telling the story to a friend. He burst out laughing. “There was no bear. I thought you knew. I drew those paw prints on the car.”

At the request of a reader, I’m adding a picture of the cup, collapsed.

Germany

Color photo taken in Germany by Daddy In the neighborhood of Dinklesbuhl, I believe.

My dad was a great photographer – he took pictures of his architectural projects, but also of scenery. When we travelled for whatever reason, the camera (and the fishing pole) were always in the car. Many a stop was made when the light was just right or a fantastic fence, rainbow, mountain goat, flock of sheep, old stone bridge or other beautiful object appeared. Sometimes – usually a fence or a cliff – the shot demanded a person, artfully arranged. Early pictures show my mother, but later it was us, the children who had to sit still on a bit of rough wood or walk ahead down the forest path, stopping just where the light rayed through the trees. Once he made us sit on a park bench with a fat sleeping fellow; he called that picture “blind date” I think. I’ll have to get a scan of it.

Anyway, usually these stops happened when we were hungry – morning or evening light makes the most magical photos. As we waited for the camera to be focused or the sun to come back out, our stomachs would growl. As you can imagine, we complained mightly. But oh, we treasure those pictures now.

This picture was taken on a trip with my parents in Europe. I was dancing in Germany at the time and they met me, saw the last performance of the season, then took me off for a tour. I was with Daddy and he was trying to teach me some of the tricks of photography. The water was dead still; he pointed out how the photo would look better with rings of wave, found a rock and tossed it. Except the toss was misguided and the rings were at the wrong angle! We waited until the water stilled – seemed forever – then he tossed again. This time was perfect and he got his shot.

Some of Daddy’s desire for making it just right must have come down to me…not in photography, but in writing. Struggling with a sentence or with the order of paragraphs, I can really appreciate what he achieved in his pictures. This one hangs over my fireplace and is much loved, both for the picture and for the memory.

Conch


My Grandmother’s Conch
When we sisters were young, Mother was ace at picking out the perfect gift for birthday or Christmas. One year I got a fly rod and a fashionable muff. Odd combination, but she knew where my interests lay. But once we were grown and out of the house, Mother was less likely to know what would be a wonderful gift and so she asked for lists. I asked for some books (I always wanted books) and a conch and promptly forgot about it.

On my birthday, among the packages, was one with a card from my grandmother. A grandmother who had been dead for several years. I thought it was a mistake, but Mother said, “Open it.” And there was my grandmother’s shell.

I have no idea where shell originally came from. All my grandparents lived in the middle of the country, far from any ocean, and they weren’t great travellers. I can only assume once upon a time they were fashionable, or maybe it came as a gift. In any case, I treasure it, not for its beauty, although it is beautiful, but because it once belonged to a beloved grandmother.