Tuesday, August 19, 2014


 “The problem of our relationships with other human beings lies at the center of our life: as soon as we become aware of this––that is, as soon as we clearly see it as a problem and no longer as the muddle of unhappiness, we start to look for its origins, and to reconstruct its course throughout our whole life.”–– Natalia Ginzburg, “Human Relationships”

When I was a teenager, my mother and father returned from a flea market with a small tissue packet.

Inside the neatly folded square an unexpected gift for me, their eldest daughter: half a dozen antique beads in greens and yellows and blues. The vendor told my parents they were ancient, having once been worn by the long-dead ladies of Egypt and Rome.

The bead’s surfaces were only slightly chipped. They looked like any common glass beads from our own time. It didn’t matter. I loved the feel of them in my palm while they pinged against one another, and I dreamed of vanished cities.

In my youth, making beaded necklaces captured many adolescent girls’ focus and time, mine included. Using cheap beads I bought downtown, I spent hours alone in my room stringing them together and inventing what I thought were radical new color combinations and patterns.

It was a period when I felt distanced from my family in powerful, totally expected ways. But until my parents returned with their gift, I hadn't realized they’d noticed. That little tissue packet meant I'd been seen by the very people by whom I felt most abandoned.

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