Thursday, January 1, 2009

Aunt Josie's Napkin Rings

My aunt Josephine died shortly after I got engaged.  It was an incredibly sad time for me....I loved her tremendously.   She was not able to attend an engagement party my mother gave me.  Partly because of her pancreatic cancer, partly because of the ice storm which hit Long Island the morning of.  But, she sent with my cousin, a box wrapped in silver paper with a vibrant red bow.  In it, 12 Lenox porcelain napkin rings to match my fine china.  I remember opening that package and reflecting on how it was like Aunt Josie to find something slightly quirky but still within the expected train of thought.  I had not registered for napkin rings; I did not know Lenox made them.  They were a unique and pleasant surprise.

I suppose the napkin rings acquired even more sentimental value to me after she passed away.  My cousin Phyllis (her daughter) has her shrimp dip recipe which she will not share with anyone.  My sister (and Aunt Josie's god-daughter) has a gold an diamond ring (actually once belonging to Phyllis) which my aunt wore often.  Other family members have assorted trinkets.  I have the napkin rings.  And, at various points in my life, the napkin rings have been the subject of my attention.  After I got married, we moved into a condo where there was not enough room for a china cabinet.  For several years all of the china remained in storage at my grandmother's house.  When we moved into our much larger home, we brought everything from Nana's and for some reason I could not find the box of napkin rings.  I cried over them because of the sentiment they held for me.  After several return trips and searching, the box turned up.  I lost them again when we moved to my current house.  Just recently, I found the box marked "fragile" which was of course at the bottom of a stack of non-fragile things (go figure).  There they were - perfectly protected, the platinum rims shiny and brand new.  I put them in the china cabinet for some special occasion.  That special occasion was today.

Did I ever mention that I hate chain emails?  (No, I don't have ADD...stick with me.)  I delete without reading most of them.  I am most definitely damned to hell for hitting the [x] on just about all of the ones with the picture of the Virgin Mary which asks me to pass the lady along to ten more people who need hope in their lives.  Perhaps this is why my luck as been as it has.  But still, they tick me off.  I got one this morning (not with VM by the way) and for whatever reason I read the story which amounted to a man going through his wife's underwear drawer (or something like that anyway.)  Fast forward to the end, there was some special nightie she was saving for a special occasion and now he was looking for underwear to take to the funeral home.  The underwear drawer thing creeped me out a little bit but the message......wear your favorite nighty because you never know what tomorrow brings...stuck with me today twofold.  First, I made a note to self to clean out my drawers.   I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and someone might be rifling through there.  Second, (I told you I had a connection to reach) use the good china today.  Pull out the sterling.  Admire the napkin rings.  And I did.  And as my grandmother was insisting that I not bother using the fine ivory porcelain and platinum dessert plates as they too would have to be hand washed and a hassle, I turned around and in slow motion watched one of the napkin rings fall from the shelf in the china cabinet, hit the ceramic tile and shatter.

For a split second I wanted to cry.  They were from Aunt Josie.  What a way to start a new year, breaking something so dear to me.  They had been lost and then found and then lost and then  And a replacement just wouldn't be the same, even if I could find one 15 years later.  It would be from a warehouse, not from my aunt, after whom I named my daughter (middle name anyway).  Shattered porcelain on the floor.

For the better part of today, another email I received this morning has been sitting in my heart and head.  It was from a friend I love dearly and suggested that perhaps the symbolic relevance of a New Year should be pointed more towards taking personal inventories of our proverbial blessings and less focused on making empty pledges of new beginnings.  This caused me to pause quite a few times during this day with my family, eating off of the good china, one napkin ring short.  While thinking about this newly passed 2008, nothing tangible even entered my mind.  The gifts I cherish from this past year are all gifts of the heart.  None were wrapped in shiny silver paper.  None had red bows.  All had an impact on my heart.

I might consider 2008 the year of lost and found, the broken and fixed.  It was probably around January when I found the napkin rings again.  Perhaps Aunt Josie is speaking to me from beyond with these things, nudging me to reflect on that which matters most. . . .

This year I found an old friend.  We'd lost touch about 10 years ago and when we made plans to meet for dinner this past April, I was ecstatic.  We sat in that restaurant for hours, catching up on a decade's worth of trials and triumphs.  We both had illness, we both had joys.  How could I not have been there for her when she was going through hard times?  What was going on in my ten years that wedged between two people who were once so close?  I don't know.  And she doesn't care either.  We have picked up from where we left off, only both recognizing that life is too precious and too short to waste time trying to figure out why we drifted apart.  And today, I can't imagine my life without her in it.  I will never lose her again.

This year I found an old lover, my first to be exact.  The circumstances that separated us need not be revisited; he and I have already done that.  For us, 19 years has happened between the last goodbye and this new hello and when he responded to my reaching out to him this summer, I was so grateful.  I felt as though something horribly broken had finally been fixed.  What was going on in my 19 years that prevented me from reaching out sooner?  I don't know.  And (I think) he doesn't care.  We have found the friendship - the part we did right so long ago.  And today, I don't want to imagine my life without him in it.  I will never lose him again.

This year I found an old aquaintence.  We didn't have a real friendship that I can recall.  I think I had a crush on him when I was 16 though.  (haha)  Come on, a girl can only be smitten when a cute boy from the one hour photo where she works draws her a cartoon pickle!  The pickle would be celebrating its 20th birthday now and this year he has made me laugh more times than I can count.  What was going on in my 20 years that I didn't think to find him, and how many times had I looked at that sharpie-drawn cartoon and smirk?  I don't know.  And he doesn't care.  We have traded confidences and with a six hour time difference, I am lucky to find smiles when I wake up and start a new day with a grin.  Today I wouldn't even imagine not sharing my intimate thoughts or reaching out for good avocado recipes.  I will never lose him again.

I also found a new friend from an old time.  She was actually one of my sister's good friends back in the day and the spirit of a little boy who at the time, neither of us met, connected us in an important mission.  What a coincidence that we have hope in similar causes.  What a gift she has been to me.

This year, one of my best friends whom I love incredibly, got broken again.  He's been through so much in the past few years and this time, the prospect of losing him shook me to my core.  I don't know why this time more than the others.  Maybe because we are closer now, maybe because it was random and stupid rather than following a carefully delivered diagnosis.  And thankfully, once again, he was fixed.  This made me realize, once again, never to let a day go by without telling the people we love, not only that we do, but why.  Every night I pray that these experiences are behind him and that every tomorrow brings health and happiness.   This friendship or partnership, whatever you want to call it, is one of my most cherished gifts.  I will never let that get lost.  Ever.

This past year I have given love and I have received it exponentially.  I have reconnected with many people who I realized have never left my heart.  I have lost, I have grieved and I have been frightened.  But when forced to reflect, I have more in my heart than ever.  

Dear Aunt Josie,

I started off this new year breaking one of the napkin rings.   While it made me sad that one has been lost for real this time, it made me be grateful that there are still 11.  It made me realize that just when I get a bit too cocky, I will probably break something.  I may not mean to do damage.  I may not mean to hurt people in the process.  It might happen though.  If you have the ability, wherever you are now, to send me the wisdom to recognize the gaps which may develop between me and the people I love, the strength to build bridges before the gaps are too wide, and the passion to inspire my telling everyone how much they mean to me each and every day, please do.  I will receive those gifts graciously.  I will be more careful next time, rejoicing in the use of the lovely and quirky napkin rings.  I will find special occasions in regular days, use the good china often and always remember your spirit.

To Annie, to Larry, to Rich, to Jonathan, to Dari, to all the people who make my life so blessed.  You are forever in my heart, even when the miles are many; even when lots of time goes by.  I love you all.

Happy New Year


Jennifer said...

WoW!! That was great- you wrote that beautifully and it puts things in perspective. I hope 2009 is good to you Melissa!
~~Jennifer Gorman Cavazza :-)

Girl Rants said...

this was beautiful.

gunner is.

Girl Rants said...

oh, and i love you

jdbauer said...

WOW! Really lovely. I've heard some really sweet things about my pickle, but this one really tops them all! ;-) I think I might have had a crush on you too. Hahahah!

Love you, homegirl! Thanks for this. It's a start of a great year.

~melissa said...

JDB....I was greatly anticipating a wise ass comment about you and your pickle. Thanks for making my day. hahahaha.


~melissa said...

to Dari..... Gunner is. Always. How awesome that you will carry his spirit. xo