#78 - SMALL THINGS
A Roman Dagger
My father brought back a a Roman dagger from Britain after WW1. He was in what
later became the R.A.F. The dagger, was much corroded and had no handle, just
(A tang is a projecting shank meant to connect with a handle)
The dagger is lost now when I had the old blade it helped me connect in my
mind to the soldier or artisan who once owned it so long ago.
The lost blade helped me to realize the reality of history in a tangible way.
An Ivory Crocodile
My Aunt Gertie had a little pencil holder that was quite a conversation
piece. I think it was originally meant for keeping score in a card game, possibly
for Bridge. The piece consisted of an ivory crocodile whose open jaws held the head
of a small negro boy.
When you pulled on the head it proved to be attached to a very small pencil.
As a child I was fascinated by the complacently smiling head and how it
could be pulled out of the croc's jaws to reveal the pencil.
This piece, while in no way politically correct, would still, if I knew
where it was, gain a good price on eBay where there is a lovely market in negro collectibles.
I was doing a lot of cross stitch and commercial framing of finished pieces
is expensive. I decided to start doing my own framing and bought a few how-to books.
Then, I went to a yard sale locally and, by golly, there was a whole box
of used frames which I promptly bought. I noticed that the old faded picture
in an one 8x10” frame had a Jewish theme.
I took the framing assembly apart and found, on the reverse of the picture
a long list of names of relatives who had perished in the Holocaust. Saddened,
I knew I could not throw this memorial away, so I made it the backing
for a finished cross stitch picture. They were not my relatives nor my
history but the list remains. Hidden but present in my mind behind the
cheerful cross stitch piece..
A book, is something you can hold in your hand, words from over a
century ago can affect you in the present tense.
I was enchanted by Kipling's Kim as a teenager. Later in life, I read
it aloud to my daughter, a chapter a night and, perhaps influenced by
the Tibetan Buddhist holy man therein, she became a Buddhist nun. The
book is set after the 2nd Afghan War from 1878 to 1880. Today we are still
hearing the echoes from this war.
My mind still takes me to Kiplling's India and the Grand Trunk Road. Kim
was Irish by birth but a child of India and carried the British Raj and
the spirit of Tibetan mysticism in one small body.
She writes: I have a plain gold band, a ring of 22 karats, originally
from England. This ring belonged to my Nana, my grandmother who left this
earth at the age of 99. She was my Dad's mother. My father, Alan, passed
away when I was six.
Nana wore this soft, gold ring every day to scrub floors, do laundry,
and all other needful chores.
I wear it proudly every day because it brings me back to my childhood
and my family in those times. It reminds me of my roots, sharing my memories
of days gone by.
When your parents and grandparents leave and you have no siblings, the
past is there but like a dream. There is no-one to say "Do you remember
When my first daughter was born, I named her Alana after my Dad. My wonderful
Nana held my three month old daughter, just before she died.
Nana’s ring will be my daughter's, all it’s family memories to be passed
in time to her own daughter.
My hope is that, even if it brings a just a fleeting moment of memory
to each of them, it will remain a family treasure.
The Blackthorn Walking Stick(Shillelagh)
I have a blackthorn walking stick. The thorns are smoothed in the process
of finishing and sanding a walking cane shaft, but the dark wood thorns,even
when smoothed, still are capable of doing a damage.
Someone attacked my dad with it when he was posted over in Ireland in
the British Army in WWI during the time of The Troubles (the Irish Rebellion).
He took the stick from his attacker. This shillelagh even when one hundred
years old remains a rather deadly weapon.
I've got the walking stick, with the blackthorns sticking out of it, hanging
on my wall, a bit cracked from age. My dad used it as a cane in later
years because he had a war injury that he got in WWII.
A Golden Brooch
His family in Germany during the Nazi era possessed a $25 U.S. gold coin
of 24 carats.
Under the Nazis it was forbidden to own foreign currency, especially gold
coins. I assume this was because such items were of special use to those
who might want to flee from Germany
The family’s coin was taken to a Jewelers to have a brooch
fastening applied to it's back, thus making it a piece of jewelry and
not a coin. He has has this coin still and shudders to think that its
discovery might have led to a severe fine or worse.
Related to this, his well-to-do family had an imported American Oldsmobile
car. It was confiscated and his father, who had to enlist, was made the
chauffeur, in this same car, for Nazi officers carousing in venues he
used to frequent himself before the war.
An Old Violin
A merchant ship docked in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, sometime
in the 1850’s. The men aboard had been at sea for two years and expected
a big payday on docking. For one reason or another the payday was not
An Italian crew member, desperate for funds, hocked his old and treasured
violin, promising to return for it. When after 3 years he had not returned
the violin was sold to the family of a small girl who was destined to
be a fine violinist in the classical music tradition.
The old violin has stayed with her and has been played by her since the
age of 5 all over the years to the present time. Even today she has a
four piece band and they play all over Toronto to entertain seniors.
She has never had the old violin appraised. Now, aged 89 she still marvels
at this instrument and its place in her life.
Inside the violin is a faintly marked indication that it was made some
time in the 1700s. It is hoped that it’s long history will continue.
The 1700s were a prime time for violin making in Italy by such makes as
Stradivarius, Guarneri del Gesu, etc.