“Anyone honest will tell you possibility is far more frightening than impossibility, that freedom is far more terrifying than any prison.” Julia Cameron
Two stones in a burlap bag. That’s all Granny left in the top drawer of the cherry curio that had been my inheritance since the day I was born.
One black and cliff-like, almost jagged to touch. The other a small, soft pebble of amber with a white peak.
I took them both out and placed one in each hand. All the negative emotions I felt for Granny seemed to exit through my hand into the black stone.
Throughout the years, she had talked of the wonders the cabinet held. How I was special for being the chosen one next in line to receive these treasures.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” she would talk to me at night, curling a ringlet in her hand, the crickets almost louder than her voice, and the cool mountain air better than any air conditioning.
By the time of her passing, we were not so close. Cards, phone calls, and occasional holiday visits.
Her old ways and my new ambitions couldn’t coexist in the same space. When I talked to her on the phone the day before she died, I felt a boulder of regret. Her life had been hardship and hatred and mine, in comparison, frivolity.
Now, I was here holding these stones, not even suitable for skipping. One with its heaviness and blackness and the other so translucent and minute.
I squeezed the small pebble in my hand, and a strange bubbly sensation filled my spirit. Instead of Granny’s stubbornness and anger, I remembered our river walks and the way she would skip the stones that lined the banks with ease.
“Not that one, dear,” her voice was soft, but her grip held tight on my wrist as she used her other hand like tweezers to extract the stone between my fingers. “We can’t toss away the white treasures.”
I realized in that moment what Granny had meant, and what she had given me. Holding these stones, I held a yin yang of potential; the power to absorb or the power to release.
The stones became a part of my daily rituals. The black stone I stuffed in my right pocket. Whenever negativity arrived in the form of an email, comment, or look, I took out the jagged stone and rubbed it harshly against my hand.
When my boss asked me again, “You did read that, correct?” in a questioning British tone, I palmed the stone twisting it both ways until her untweezed brows relaxed, and she gave me a trying smile. “I like the way you approached that.”
If my family looked dazed and non-talkative at the dinner table, I would delicately touch the amber stone, massaging it between three fingers. Soon easy smiles arrived and conversations would flow, like the river by Granny’s house.
I began to wonder how I had endured a life without these two precious pebbles.
I remember the Youth Dew scent of Granny and sitting by her cherry wood bedroom vanity, watching her add black dye on a comb to color her short, curly hair.
“The world you see around you, is a reflection of what you see inside you,” she finished her part and sprinkled more black on the comb, trying to bring life to what was already dead.
I peeked in the mirror to see what was inside me, but my reflection was all freckles, unruly red curls, and a lopsided half-dimple smile.
Absorb and release, week after week. My husband’s anger flared up in the courtyard after waiting for us to return from the store, “What’s with the g.d. bag?” He never liked me spending any money on the kids. I would delicately twirl the amber stone and watch him soften. “Sorry, love,” he motioned for a hug.
In the evenings, when the kids would find their musical instruments and play harmonica for hours on end, I would flex the black stone in my palm like a hand exercise. The non-stop sounds of their noise ceased to annoy.
But when the virus hit, everyone was in a panic. Bread and toilet paper disappeared from the shelves. The black stone seemed to only affect a small radius, and I had no way of absorbing all of the tension from around me.
The night the curfew went into effect, I rubbed the stone so hard, it split open my hand. It was only when drops of red hit the carpet that I realized I had coated the stone in blood.
I washed the maroon markings from the carpet and then cleansed the stone, but it wasn’t able to absorb away the negative feelings of being told when we could leave the house. There was no way to rub out how dangerous we were to each other, and how we were doing our duty by staying six feet away.
Somehow all of the negative energy in the stone had entered my bloodstream. My body rubbed against my soul in never-ending friction.
Eight weeks later, I looked in my cherry jewelry armoire and added red powder to my greying part. The expression in the mirror was steel. I had effectively absorbed and released all of the emotions from my life.
“I wish I was a teddy bear,” I sang and twisted the strands of my daughter’s red hair, “not living on nothing nor going nowhere.”
My Granny used to sing that song when I was just a little girl. The quarantine had just been extended for three more weeks, but in the mirror, I saw only the perfect button eyes and sawdust smile.