I Spy Color

I SPYI SPY by Jean Marzollo, was one of my favorite books to read with the kids when they were younger.  I loved the colorful photos, the objects in miniature, the plethora of items to locate and our earnest searching.  “Is that really in the photo?  I can’t find it.  Maybe they made a mistake.  OH I see it!  There it is!”  And we’d celebrate our good find.   I SPY is a touchstone to poignant memories of cherished time with my kids.

Many years ago we received a touching gift from a young couple, Sean and Amy, who Paul and I had mentored prior to their wedding.  The gift was a green ceramic leaf that held multiple colorful, smooth stones, all bearing words written by Amy— warrior, family, love, hope, wisdom, patience, kindness, truth, laughter—words they used to describe us and our impact in their relationship.  We were awed.  We felt blessed.

Over the years, our family has added to the stone collection atop the green ceramic leaf.  Stones of all colors, both smooth and rough, those with words and those without.  Flat, round, jagged, sparkly, pitted, holey, imprinted with fossilized patterns.  And over time, to this stone menagerie, I began adding small items that held special meaning for me.  I added things that acted as a touchstone to memories of cherished times and significant people and places:

Marbles that remind me of the first scent of Spring when the Michigan snow was melting and there was bare ground to play marbles on.

The stones that bear our children’s blessed names.

Grandpa’s self-crafted tie clip with gears repurposed from his old watch.  His ingenuity reminds me of when he added a motor to a French bean slicer and his first attempts plastering the ceiling with beans.

Shells that Nicholas picked up on the beach as a toddler and handed to me with both hands, full of sand, trusting I would guard them with my life.  I wouldn’t sell those shells for any amount of money, Nicholas.

The last remnants of Emma’s Polly Pockets: two shoes and a purse.  Our initial thought when gifting Emma with Polly Pockets that year was “how could they possibly fit that many items in one small box!”  Years later, after re-gifting those same Polly Pockets to a niece, discovering the small shoes and the purse behind a couch left me grateful for the memory.

The clip-on earring Paul wore while playing the drums at the Spring Arts Festival at Calvin College.  I had braided his wet hair into small braids and then after it dried, combed out his locks to amazing heights.  The earring is a reminder of his wild side.

One of many horse pins I bought for myself as a young girl.  It reminds me that I have a continued longing to own a real horse.

5-K, 10-K, and 25-K pins reminding Paul of his successfully completed races.  Remembering his persistence in achieving his goal to run and to complete races, I smile at how proud I am of him.

Leftover coins from travelling to Algeria and Guatemala; not because of my interest in coins so much as the memories of travelling with the four of us as we coined ourselves “TEAM GEBBEN.”  The coins bring back memories of significant physical and spiritual challenges in strange lands with our young children.

The shell from the only (and last) raw oyster I ate when we moved to Seattle.

Multiple glass hearts held by women as they shared their stories of abuse and redemption in Journey Groups.

A pin of Italy that Paul and I bought while we walked through the cobblestoned streets of Florence this year.  It calls back to mind meeting our friends in Tuscany to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

The stories and the memories continue to color our lives, and the touchstones have poured over the edges of the green ceramic leaf.  I replaced the leaf this past year with a large glass bowl, containing sand, to hold all that I SPY and that I REMEMBER, and a few things that I STILL LONG FOR.


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Maureen Gebben is enjoying life in the Pacific Northwest after moving there a year ago with her husband, who is presently enrolled in The Seattle School. Mother of 2 fabulous children, she has been married for 29 years. She dreams of gardening on her farm with afternoons spent fly fishing in the property’s stream. Maureen loves hiking, a well-hit back hand, and laughter.