Precarious Kites
(Grace Notes)
Columns About Joy > Captain Marvel Ring
Captain Marvel Ring

Grace-Note #11 - for Sunday 3/19/06

After spending the week helping my parents pack up the home I’d grown up in, it was time to fly back to Colorado. My Dad lifted the red suitcase up to the airline scale and watched the number flick to 62 pounds – 12 pounds over the limit. I paid the fee.

“What do you have in there?” my Dad said, only half alarmed. The family silver? Well, yes – Mom gave me two Pinocchio spoons and the Hey Diddle Diddle baby dish from the 30’s. I’d tucked them in, along with several old dolls, a red crocheted coat from the seventies, and other odds and ends I’d sorted out while we packed up the house six people had all lived in for so many years.

What’s this?

You want that?

What’s special about those?

When I got home, and relayed my extra twelve pounds story, my sons' eyes flared with little boy greed and maybe-there’s-something-for-me. What’s in the suitcase? Can we look?

They looked.

What’s this?
Why’d you want that?
What’s special about these?

I’d squirreled away two sketch books for them, some coasters that looked like pirate booty, a couple of air flow calculators my Dad had neatly labeled “Lucas” and “Gabriel” for someday when the chicken-scratch equations on the holding sleeve might make sense.

They continued to dig and disregard as boring much what they found. My husband and I wandered away to settle at the kitchen table, planted in the slight and thin bubble of adult conversation, momentarily absent, tuned out of the frequency that carries boy-voices, dogs, the dryer timer.

Until I heard a small voice quietly say “wow”. I knew my son was on his knees beside my suitcase, knew he had settled back on his heels, that he was wide-eyed and that he held some treasure in his hands.

Bump. Rush. He was beside us. “Whose are these?” He asked it threaded with the dangling string of “can they be mine?”

That’s Papa’s ring collection from when he was a little boy.

It was a half-truth. What Gabriel held was a small bit of the collection. Someone had threaded 20 or so old rings on a ball-link key chain. A pittance compared to the stories I’d heard of the rings, the trays he kept them in, the Aunts and old women saving them for him: of the mail-away cowboy rings, the spy rings, the Captain Marvel rings.

I looked for that collection at my grandparent’s home for years – long into adulthood. After they had died and before the house was sold, I stood in the cellar – it was completely cleared out, swept clean, empty – every stack and pile and shelf gone. I could see under the house into the crawl space. “Hey Dad,” I’d asked “Did you ever go in there?” and I pointed into the dark 2 ½ foot high tunnel that stretched back and back.

Maybe the ring collection was in there? I imagined jewels. I pictured the flat wooden boxes. But, spiders and the improbability of crawling around in old dirt so soft and fine it puffed kept me from hoisting myself up and in to look.

Now Gabriel is talking on the phone. “This silver one, Papa, the dragon with red eyes. Where’d you get that one? It is my favorite…” My Dad probably tried to brush over the details of so many years past, but my son would have none of it. “But wait Papa, I have a few more questions……” and he fingered each ring on the chain, examined it, listened into the receiver with purpose and intent.

The rings I’d heard about when I was ten are probably long hidden or long gone. But that loss is nothing compared to this coming alive in my kitchen – my son and the rings, his plans for collecting, this nine year old boy reaching back into a crawl space of years and bringing out the boxes, carrying them out into the light, filling them up again.

All things hidden and glittering in the dark, are just waiting to be found – and I’m learning there is more than one way to find something that is lost.

I never found that collection I was looking for. But this one, now my son’s, heavy with story and promise, I can tell already is even better.