My mother was always different than other mothers. She collected rocks.
|My mother collects rocks. She’s never really been like other mothers. For one, she was a widower at the age of 26, and for two, she gave birth to my sister just two weeks after she lost my father. I was 18 months old.
She was self-sufficient. If the basement flooded she would wade down there and rescue the washer and dryer by levering them up onto cement blocks. She could fix dinner, the lawn mower, turtles with broken shells, and she could twist and turn and pop a Barbie doll’s leg right back into place.
She once drove by a pony that was tied so tight to a tree that its soft velvet nose was rubbed raw in places. A for sale sign was nailed just above its head. My mother paid the people $200, and arranged for a friend of my father’s to pick that pony up and board it until she could sell our house in town and move us all to the country.
I’m pretty sure this is about the time the rock collecting began. Oh, I mean we always collected pretty pebbles and beach stones for her and I’m certain she kept a little pot full of those shiny white stones people used to edge their gardens with sitting around, but it was at about this time we started really seriously collecting rocks.
Most fields that are truly worked have large rock piles somewhere nearby and we had a doozy of a pile just a field away. Jessica and I hauled home a big rock or two for her, pretty ones with dazzle in them, and you would have thought we'd handed mom the moon. She hosed them off, said “I’ll find a good spot for these” and she did; right on the edge of her flower garden by our front door. We were addicted.
It wasn’t long after that we came home from a camping trip “out West” with the rear end of our Ford Fairmount bottoming out with each bounce. The hatchback was full of rocks. Just full. Big old stones with chunks of crystal-like mica, sand stone with variegated layers, chalky white chunks of nobody knew what, and rocks with fossil bits and pieces littered across them. “Look at this," she said, beckoning to us girls, “don’t you think this little chunk could be fossilized seaweed?” We were pretty concerned when she drove us through the petrified forest, but there were laws there and mom was sure they’d check our car when we left because, “who wouldn’t want a piece of petrified tree?”
Mom lives with my family now, my husband and 3 kids. When she left her house, we dug up and hauled off about 3 car loads of stones and rocks from her garden and goldfish pond. I believe she still has a few in her mini-storage, “just in case.”
The grandkids have grown up as rock connoisseurs, culling rocks from every local, scratching rocks out of the earth or pawing through rocks on beaches. They thumb them with a little spit to look for sparkle, and inspect them as I imagine a dragon would inspect a ruby or diamond; then they bring their treasures to “Ooma” cupped in their grimy little hands. Ooma mom always declares each of these treasures a unique miracle of nature and pops them in her pocket, or her rock bucket, or my mini-van trunk, depending on size.
When my little sister moved to Oswego on Lake Ontario, she discovered a miracle. There are miles and miles of beach there just littered with super smooth, multi-colored rocks. You can find little worry stones to hold in your hand, baseball sized ovoids, and big ones with lots of reflective crystal bits in them. She even found a rock with a teeny tiny hole right through it, if you hold it up you can see light through the hole, and you can blow air through it, “now how on earth did that happen?” mom asks, every time she picks that stone up. The first time we visited the beach, we left with our pants hanging immodestly low, dragged down by pockets full of rocks. We tripped our way back to the car and filled the trunk. Then mom headed back, “for just a few more.”
Yes, my mother collects rocks. She’s really never been like other mothers; you see, her love is set in stone.