Today, at the craft store, I held a porcelain blue bird – about the size of a golf ball plus tail feathers in my hand. He was on sale, at a deep discount and knew I would happily part with his asking price ($0.74) in exchange for his silent companionship. I thought of where exactly I would perch him, as I held him cupped protectively in my hand while I wandered the store. This was it, I mused, I was the person who bought porcelain bird figurines and instantly conjured an image of what this little spark would later feed in terms of decades long collecting.
We happened to be in the store by accident, as we were headed to another that we thought opened earlier. It might sound odd but killing time isn’t something we do frequently, it seems like almost all of our hours are accounted for and when they have served their purpose they seem to dissipate like so many raindrops into a puddle. At the end of the day, though I can rattle off what was accomplished, it would be harder for me to decipher which hour of time it was assigned to. But this bird could change all that. He could be my very own surveying touchstone, a way to check in on the time that passes without being accountable to perform any service to it. He seemed at once frivolous and almost devout in his seriousness.
As we continued through the aisles – the kids delighted in the gory Halloween display items. First, a cold, skeletal hand settled on my shoulder, perched by a much younger body, straining to reach me. Next, a bumpy, and glass eyed toad brushed against my hand followed by peals of laughter when I recoiled. I thought about the bird.
I thought about owning him and how I knew instinctively that only seconds after purchasing him, before I even brought him home and nestled him in some anointed, sacred place I would resent him. I would dust around him one day, my eyebrows up and a tight lipped half smile would settle on my face as I thought about the day I saw him and how I wanted to bring him home. That thought would be the thing that actually held the magic; it was the experience that brought me the joy.
There will be many more times that find us whiling away on our stop to another place, but I didn’t need a token of it. I can hold a delicate, beautiful thing and not need to possess it for it be mine. The stuff goes, the memories stay.
This same store was one I would take the girls to when they were very very little. They would nap as I pushed them in the stroller and looked at different cardstock, beautiful inks and fragile pastels. I had imagined the entire scrapbooks I would do one day, all the headbands and hair bows I could create, the Halloween costumes that would be ornately sewn together at the kitchen table. (Fast forward to today when I still have some of those scrapbook papers in my closet, the headbands and bows were made exclusively by a friend and the closest I got to costume making from this store included felt and a hot glue gun). Sigh.
It’s easy to get caught up in “who you would be if…”but before I let it carry me away I stopped for a second. That blue bird wasn’t me. It wouldn’t make me happier or help me to be better at math or stay on task. It was just a little something I wanted to hold and it cheered me up as I did. I felt even better as I slid him back onto the shelf, knowing that I wouldn’t be offloading him one day or begrudging him ever. He had served a mighty purpose and for that I am thankful and still in possession of the experience.