|anigre, cherry, spalted maple, ebony
boxwood, bocote, imbuya, ebony
I was very proud when my brother asked me to make a box for his wife. He's my older brother, with all that entails.
Sibling. One of my siblings. One of my family...
Near the end of her life, when she was 95 and bedridden in the steel and white room, my mother no longer recognized me. She knew she had a son named Steven, spoke fondly of him, but didn't apprehend that I am/was him. When I'd introduce myself, as myself, she'd gaze at me intently, searching her past. Then shake her head and sweetly - afraid, it seemed, to disappoint me - indicate that I'm not/wasn't him.
Didn't even look like Steven.
Once in a while, however, there'd be a glimpse, a recognition, but that only brought tears; angry at herself for having forgotten her "very own son." It was a relief when, moments later, she'd lose that fleeting clarity. I would once more assume the visage of a kindly gentleman, stopping by to visit, to listen to her reminisce about her family, her fantasies, her history. What had happened. Why.
All those years, probably from a very early age, I had wished she'd forget about me, and now she had. We had arrived at a remarkable conclusion: Polite conversation between courteous strangers.
Peace at last.
My father, on the other hand, never grew old. I remember when he was 71, still acting and looking younger than his years. In the pink, as he would say. Quick, purposeful strides, twinkling eyes, friendly smile. He had gone bowling the week before entering the hospital for what we all thought was a routine prostate examination.
Not old, not old at all.
I mean, they still had plans, he and my mother: Move to Florida, live out their days in the sun, on those beaches. It would be like Belmar, year-round, with relatives and friends nearby. Maybe, a chance to grow old together, move past the bitterness, the shrill, never-ending arguments that had assailed their relationship for so long.
Maybe old age would have insisted on a truce.
I didn't expect cancer, so far advanced. I don't think anyone did.
No one thought he would die within the week.
That there'd be no time to forget...
Maybe memory lies. Or maybe it just serves a purpose now, to support a meaning chosen in the present, for the present, as a kind of last resort.
Here's how I look at it. My father was rational, consistent, easygoing in the American world; my mother feared it. Still, they built a life together. One way or another. This way or that. Overcoming the odds against their troubled pairing.
Inevitably, the results of their aspirations, choices and efforts informed the circumstances of my childhood, and that of my siblings.
It seems to have turned out well. My two sisters and my brother are upstanding members of the community. Loved and loving. Respectable. Respected. We have families of our own. There's children, grandchildren. Smiles and tears.
As far as I can tell, all happily woven into the American canvas, this time, these times...
These are keepsake boxes. The one with the dovetails is made of boxwood, bocote, ebony, and imbuya. The other is anigre, spalted maple, ebony and cherry.
Their task is to provide safe harbor for precious cargo, those tangible bits of existence that carry special meaning, that conjure the past.
Protected in here.