My late brother Stephen was quite the globetrotter. In many ways, he reminded me of our Aunt Marny. She was the same way, always jetted off to somewhere.
I seem to recall Aunt Marny going to Norway twice, just so she could see the fjords in spring! She brought me bookends from India as a college graduation gift. I still have them to this day, and it makes me smile to think of her every time I see them on my bookcase.
Steve was like that.
One Christmas, Steve zipped in from Alaska, and, as always, had tales to tell of his latest adventures in the Land of the Midnight Sun. I sat in rapt attention, my mind filling with images of iceberg, sleds pulled by barking huskies, and menacing polar bears growling at seals and walruses.
Come the morning, there were two small packages under the tree, one for me, and one for our father, among others, of course. Inside the package were the most amazing sterling silver pendants in the shape of birds: an eagle for dad and a phoenix for me.
I immediately hung my pendant about my neck. It was awesome! Dad’s was well, for lack of a better word, soft. Its features were rounder, its wings rather subdued. On mine, the wings spread wide, their tips downright pointy, and its talons were sharp enough to slice fabric and even draw blood!
Every time I wore it, it boosted my confidence and courage. It seemed a little bit of the spirit of the phoenix had come with the pendant. I did lose a couple t-shirts to those wingtips and talons.
Yeah, like I said, sharp! Yet, a small price to pay. In fact, I think I even cut my finger on a talon once.
Still, I didn’t care. The artisanship, the weight of the phoenix, for a small bird, he was heavy, everything about it said one thing: power. This was a strong and powerful creature, well worthy of the title phoenix and it made me want to live up to that image and heritage.
As for our dad, although he loved his, he wasn’t one to wear it often. He was not the sort of fellow who was into that sort of thing. Yet, he always cherished it and there came a time when he asked a favour of me.
“When the day comes that I leave this world to join Mother and Pop, give it to Heidi. I want it to be my last Christmas gift to her.”
Heidi was his first granddaughter, the first female member of the family in a great many decades and, thus, she held a special place in his heart. Although he loved having sons, I always suspected he would have liked having at least one daughter. When that day finally came, I was honoured to fulfill his wish; pleased to see how happy it made her to get it.
Just recently, at my mom’s ninetieth birthday celebration, Heidi was there. She wore the pendant about her neck. It made me so very happy to see her wear it. It was a connection to her uncle and grandfather.
Steve passed away two days later.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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