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Dust to Dust
By Brenda Bellinger
This post happens to fall on what would have been my mother’s 86th birthday if she were still with us. She passed away thirteen years ago, yet I often feel her presence. Recently, I was dusting a small antique genie lamp that belonged to her mother, my grandmother. Made of white china, its glaze bears the spiderwebbing of many tiny cracks. Miraculously, the hurricane glass and original brown paper shade, though faded, are both still intact. As I carefully pushed a corner of the dust cloth through the curled handle, I thought of all the times this had been done before. Both my mother and grandmother were fastidious housekeepers. Myself? Not so much.
I wonder at what point this lamp will cease to hold its significance. A time will come when the sleeping genie will no longer be woken by the caress of a dust cloth and the lamp will find its way to the land of the unwanted and unneeded.
In the 1950s, the Lane Company of East Providence, Rhode Island gave graduating students at the local Catholic school for girls, a miniature hope chest. Mom gave hers to me many years ago and I use it for odd bits of costume jewelry. Amazingly, the cedar scent is still present. As I mentioned in my last post, times have changed. The idea of a hope chest today, though quaint, seems so horse-and-buggy.
When she and my father first married, they struggled financially for a while as many young couples do, trying to get their footing. One Christmas, he bought her a bottle of Joy perfume by Jean Patou. She so treasured this bottle that she rarely used it. I remember how it sat regally in the center of a mirrored tray on her dresser. I have it now. One more thing to dust. It’s still about two-thirds full, the perfume having aged a deep amber color. Writing this, I paused for a moment to go open it; something I’ve never done before. As you might have guessed, it turned a corner a very long time ago. I’m not sure why, but I’ll keep it a bit longer.
Memories. Something else to be thankful for when we gather around the table.
Born in Rhode Island, I spent the first eight years of my life in New England. I can still remember the delight of summer thunderstorms and the fragrance of fall in the air as leaves crunched underfoot. My parents moved to San Francisco and eventually settled in the North Bay Area.
In 1992, a friend asked me to sign up for a writing class with her. I agreed, never anticipating that class would open a new door for me. At that time, my husband and I were raising four boys and I was working as a courtroom clerk. Writing provided a creative outlet I didn’t know I needed..
For the month of November 2009, I cleared my calendar of all commitments other than work and Thanksgiving Day to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – a challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Fueled by good coffee and dark chocolate covered espresso beans, I zipped past the goal and completed the first (extremely rough) draft of what would eventually become my debut novel, “Taking Root.”
My work has appeared in Small Farmer’s Journal, Mom Egg Review, Persimmon Tree, THEMA, the California Writers Club Literary Review, and in various anthologies, including The Write Spot: Reflections, and The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year.
Note from Marlene: Brenda’s Blog is a collection of thoughtful and entertaining reflections on what matters.
“Dust to Dust” originally posted on Brenda’s Blog, November 16, 2021.