Fri10242014

Talismans: The Living Experiment

Before leaving my college sorority for the summer, I sought a safe place to store my mother’s wedding ring. Given that the sorority was my most permanent address and that I would be renting a summer apartment 10 hours from campus, keeping the ring safe and sound within the walls of the locked, empty sorority seemed like a good idea. I tucked the ring deep within a medium-sized box of my belongings and placed the box atop my bed on the third-floor sleeping porch.

When I returned in the fall, the carpet on the sleeping porch had been replaced and my box was nowhere to be found. Gone were treasured artifacts from my childhood, including a few pictures of my parents, who had died a few years before, and gone was my mom’s wedding ring.

Even now, decades later, when I come across a box that dates back to my college years or earlier, I dig through, inexplicably allowing myself a sliver of hope that somehow that cherished ring will turn up.

That we assign meanings to such things is natural, of course, especially when the items are links to people we have lost. Call them mementos or treasures, but I think of them more as talismans. Steeped in memory and nostalgia, the talismans we choose become tangible symbols of our enduring love, especially when we can no longer literally hold the people we once held near and dear.

Bay Area hiker Lori Kaplan had a recent heartrending run-in with this concept. For years, she wore a pendant given to her by a beloved great aunt. After it slipped from her neck while hiking, she hoped the pendant would somehow be returned to her.

“The sentimental connection to my aunt will not be broken,” she wrote, fearing that the pendant was gone forever, “but the constancy of having her presence with me via the necklace will.” And so she sent “a wish out to the universe that it finds its way back to my heart.” As luck would have it, three women found the pendant that day and sought to return it.

I like imagining these women coming across Lori’s pendant and pondering the sadness that losing a cherished item would instill in its owner. Think these gals have known a similar heartbreak? Perhaps so. In the end, the women went out of their way to reunite Lori with her pendant, and she was tremendously grateful for their act of compassion.

Alas, I’ve long given up on my mother’s ring finding its way back to my heart. One astute friend said that losing a talisman may mean there is a lesson to be learned about letting go. Ah, yes, lessons of love, loss, letting go and moving on are ones we all face as we go through life. And the coming and going of talismans sometimes help pave the way.

Approximately 10 years ago, I assigned a new talisman to remind me of my mom. It’s her baby spoon – sterling silver, tarnished and slightly bent. Nearly 80 years have elapsed since it served its primary purpose of feeding my mother. Now, after all its travels, the baby spoon resides in my sugar bowl. It’s a sweet little reminder of my mom every morning when I make my tea.

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