A Question of Value, Christmas 2012
"How do you feel about diamonds?"
"What?!" I stared at my feet-on-the-ground Taurus mother.
"I'm serious," she said.
I'd come down from the Blue Ridge Mountains, years ago now, visiting my parents at Christmas. Mama was peering at me over her reading glasses, emerged from a NYTimes crossword puzzle.
Moi, I was three-needle knitting an Aran pullover as one of several indoor layers. The old house at my start-up farm had a roof, I'll give it that, which leaked some. The warped clapboards of the walls leaked Arctic wind; I was freezing my arse.
And looking at nursery catalogs, dreaming a bountiful farm. Much infrastructure was derelict, in need of repair, and I was working myself into a state about the cost of orchard trees, small fruits, tools, tiller.
A tractor would not materialize till much later, after inflow began to balance/exceed outflow. The bitterness of the cold and isolation were weighing on me a bit with feelings of overwhelm.
Mama was about to teach me deep value, she who had not grown up with jewels:
"Do you remember the diamond brooch and large diamond solitaire ring?" I nodded. "You will inherit those one day. Do they really matter to you?"
Wearing farm bib-overalls and work boots at the time, I looked down at my ensemble, and laughed.
"If other things matter to you more, like heirloom apples, tools, an asparagus bed, let's give some thought to selling the diamonds, and investing in the farm."
Mama wore and enjoyed those jewels; I was flabbergasted. Mind you, I liked them, too.
We did sell the pretty heirloom baubles, and invest in creating the farm. There I lived ten deep years of bounty, till Power Co. right-of-way defoliant nearly killed me, and I had to leave, ending a life's chapter.
I remembered Mama's common sense and her great glowing heart this week. I had to go to WartMort to buy a soccer ball, great fun! The church where I sing had decorated an "angel tree" with wish lists of children not likely to receive holiday gifts in our troubled economy of lay-offs and few jobs.
Our Christmas Bazaar had raised several thousands of dollars to provide holiday fare to the 600-plus families who come each week to the Food Pantry, struggling to put food on the table, and keep roof over their heads. This small town supports three volunteer-run "food banks."
It's snowy, nights deeply cold in the mountains. Skiers exult and the homeless shelters are full.
I pondered the angel tree and chose a six year old boy's list who wanted the ball, picture books, arts and crafts. Mama would have loved this. My second Christmas at the farm, I was dragooned into being Santa Claus at the elementary school by a neighbor who taught there.
One desperately poor little girl, neither clean nor adequately dressed, cried on my padded red lap. I held her close and pulled out a robust handkerchief of my father's and wiped her snotty nose.
"Tell me," I whispered.
"Santy, would ya bring me a bahr?" I leaned down to hear better. "A Teddy Bahr? Mom says I cain't have one this year."
"Oh, honey. We'll see what we can do."
I told Mama about it; she burst into tears. And arrived that weekend with a bear to dream on.
So, I remembered Mama's sense of value, with a soccer ball tucked into one elbow this week, stopping to gawk at the electronics department. Mobbed, people grabbing iPods and big screen TV's, paying with credit cards.