Monday, February 15, 2016

A special souvenir ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This morning when I moved some magazines making room for two mugs of steaming coffee, I accidentally knocked a yellow glass ball off the table. It bounced off the area rug, hit the wooden floor and rolled into the corner of the fireplace, which cracked the knick-knack into three pieces.

It was not entirely my fault and seemed insignificant, but the result was a look of sadness on Jilda’s face that I had not seen in a long time.

I asked if her mom or grandmother had given it to her, but she said no. Turns out, it was the first gift I ever bought her after we started dating in 1968.

I turned that over in my mind a moment digging for a trace of memory and finally it came back to me slowly.

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and she’d somehow convinced her mom and dad to let her go with me and our friends Dale and Debbie to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The only hitch was that we’d have to drive up and back on the same day. Her mom and dad were not idiots. Allowing their 16-year-old daughter to stay overnight without adult supervision was not in the stars.

We left out before daylight that morning and drove the five hours to Gatlinburg in Dale’s Ford Maverick that was the color rust.

As we weaved our way through scenic roads into the mountains, we passed deer and all
kinds of critters who regarded us curiously. The clouds were gray as woodsmoke, and soon snow began falling. When we stopped at Maloney’s Point for a photo op on the way into town.

Once we got into Gatlinburg, we did a little sightseeing and grabbed a bite of lunch but realized there were many miles to go. Getting snowed in didn’t seem like a good idea, so we got back on the road though we did stop at one point long enough to build a little snowman.

We pulled into a tiny gift shop filled with candles and glass figurines to buy a few souvenirs. The place smelled of musk and patchouli. Somewhere in the back, a percolator was gurgling a fresh pot of apple cider, which made the shop smell like Christmas. That’s where I bought her the little yellow ball.

I know that it must have been inexpensive because I didn’t have a lot of money then, but it was a hit with my new girlfriend. It seemed to make her happy, and she held on to the keepsake through the years.

It managed to survive generations of children who’ve visited our home. For some reason, kids who could barely walk would hoist themselves up wobble-legged, balance on one hand and reach straight for that little yellow ball. I can’t count the times it dropped and rolled across our wooden floor like a big marble.

In years past, we’ve gone through phases where we’d declutter our home. Each time we did that routine was painful because it meant deciding what was meaningful and what we could let go. The little glass ball always made the cut.

I felt a little sad standing there with the pieces of that keepsake in my hand as I remembered that magical day in Tennessee.


  1. Very nice story. I miss those good old days when little things could seem so big.

    I say get a new similar yellow ball. It will be just as special.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about the yellow ball. It's funny what we consider treasures but it is obviously special. I hope it can be fixed somehow

  3. Rick what a sweet memory... and now it's in writing for us all to read. I have small keep sakes like that too, they bring back nice memories xox

  4. Oh dear. I am so sorry the little yellow ball is now gone. What a sweet story and hey, you ended up with the girl of your dreams. Can you maybe glue that ball back together again? Just asking.

  5. Nice to have something like that that jogs the memories of times past, but those good times are not over and I'm sure you two will be making more good times to remember.

  6. I'm sorry the yellow ball is broken, but I think it's great that the magic spell of two kids in love is not broken.

  7. Nice memory but I'm sorry about the broken yellow glass ball. What gets me is that you didn't remember that you were the one who bought that gift for Jilda. I bet you must have had other things on your mind that day and it didn't register in your memory but Jilda remembered.

    I remember seeing that picture before and the story of your trip but I don't remember the yellow glass ball.

  8. What a sweet story. At 16 I didn't think "bad ideas" existed. I see a trip back to memory lane for you two soon.

  9. Amazing the importance we place on these objects. Mrs. Chatterbox has a box of questionable items I've gifted her over the years.

  10. Your story's given me pause, Rick. I was surprised at the depth of my own disappointment (dismay?) when Tom happened to break an otherwise-innocuous cruet which held sentimental value.

  11. I can almost feel the heartbreak of Jilda when she saw it. Those simple little things often mean the most.

  12. Damn this made me feel sad, and it wasn't even my yellow ball

  13. What a beautiful story! I am so sorry for Jilda! Is there any way you can fix it? Or maybe keep a piece of it??

  14. Sorry about the loss of a special gift. However, the fact that you still have the special girl who inspired that purchase is the real gift. Great story and photo!

  15. Ahhh, what a memory. I enjoyed the story from start to finish. It is always fun to ease inside the special memories of other folks, this was sweet memory lane run, sorry the broken 'BIG glass marble' had to kick it in.


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