The Making of a Memento

For years, one of my less-than-tangible interests has been, how is meaning created? How do signals, bywords, and objects become encoded with messages and memories? And specifically, how does a pin my grandmother never owned become a memento of her to me?

A memento of my Gramma

Malleable Sentiment

Gramma Junie collected mice figurines. For as long as I remember, they held the spot in the window sill over the kitchen sink.

She passed away in May. I’d rather you smile with me than cry, but I miss her. I wish I’d called more often. I wish things were different.

My mom has a pre-loved jewelry business, and in one of her lots, she found a mouse pin and gave it to me to wear in honor of Gramma. I joked, sort of, that I would pretend it had belonged to her. That was, possibly, a crummy thing to say. It was just a reminder of something nice, but the encoding process was off to a somewhat rocky start.

Pouring Out and Drinking In

I said, earlier this month, that I would tell you what I’ve been up to. I’m embarrassed of my latest blogging sabbatical, truth be told. Embarrassed of falling behind before I even had a good reason to. Embarrassed of this year’s buckshot career efforts, so scattered and hard to measure.

My time lately has gone to book-writing (not as fast as I wanted), website upgrades (not as much as I planned), and too much Facebook (liking and lurking mostly, though occasionally breaking the silence to gift the world with my special trademarked brand of smart-aleckery).

Oh Brandy, Gramma would say. You’re comical.

My new book has a character dealing with the loss of a grandparent, as a matter of fact. I had to rewrite some of that. I was way off.

Meanwhile, I let my Ancestry subscription go (again), and I’m behind on my reading (as always). I say yes–to friends, opportunities, whatever–as much as possible, because when you hit E, you have to find ways to fill up again. Sometimes I think I’m pouring out when I’m actually drinking in, and vice versa. Sometimes I don’t think there’s much difference.

So when I was invited to participate in a library event that happened to fall on what would have been Gramma’s 85th birthday, I said yes.

The Making of a Memento

I didn’t keep up with the emails leading up to the event very closely. I figured out what I would say on the car ride over. It poured that day, the sort of terrifying, blinding rain that prompts the wildlife to pair up two by two.

(Our memorable days really should involve extreme weather in some form or fashion, don’t you think?)

I arrived at the library a few minutes late, to my complete mortification–and I had items to carry in from my car to set up my section of the book table. I had some help thankfully, because in rain like that, an umbrella just gets in the way.

In the middle of my being flustered, someone in the library called out. “Did anyone lose a pin?”

“Oh!” My hand flew to the left side of my chest to confirm it. Yes. My mouse pin had loosed and fallen. The back was still bouncing around inside my blouse. (More mortification.)

Almost losing the mouse pin I wore in honor of my Gramma on her birthday after she died somehow feels like an important part of how this memento was made. Loss and near-loss are major meaning-makers. They prompt us to hold tighter the things we can keep, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Anyway, I repositioned it and we sat down for our author Q&A. When it was my turn to talk, I used the pin as a touchpoint and told a story about Gramma. It came out sounding like it had belonged to her. When I clarified, I wondered if I was weird for making the pin about her.

I don’t like suspecting that I’m weird. Or being embarrassed. I don’t like admitting here, publicly, that I was late and less prepared than I should have been and wearing drenched polyester and a secondhand pin to meet readers.

But pouring my heart out to that group and drinking in from some of them as they shared about their own families and losses–and seeing firsthand the potential of my sorrow as an ingredient to create meaning for someone else–cancelled all of that other stuff out.

The pin has weight and mass. It takes up space. I’m grateful to have it, but it’s still just a thing. An encoded object. A memento.

It’s the memories, the messages, the meaning, that help refill the E.

brandy and gramma memory


Thanks for reading. This one was heavy, I know, so on October 4, we’ll try something on the lighter side to celebrate Family History Month. Until then, where to?

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