Finial Moment

Friends and I enjoyed brunch the other day. Afterwards, I suggested we stop by the local antique store to see what was new…

No one got the joke.

Still laughing at myself, because it never takes much, I held the door for the others as we entered and went our separate ways down cluttered and dusty aisles.

We hadn’t been there long when I saw, tucked between Mason jars and wicker baskets, an old Thanksgiving decoration like one Mama used when I was a kid. It was a turkey with a cardboard head but the rest of it was the honeycomb style that opened and latched onto itself, giving the turkey a big round body. Its cardboard head was bent and its big round body didn’t latch anymore, but I held it up to look at it and wondered whose it used to be, where they might have placed it, and how many kids had ever touched it or crunched it.

“You want that thing?” one friend asked.

“No, I’m just having a finial moment.” I responded.

“Ok…” my friend said. He waited for an explanation.

For years and years, the same floor lamp stood in the same corner of the den at home. It was always positioned at one end of the couch regardless of how the room was arranged. Mama rarely rearranged, so the lamp stood in the same spot forever it seemed. The lamp sported three light bulbs and was about six feet tall counting the huge beige shade. As a kid I thought it was “fancy” because as you turned the switch you could opt for one, two, or all three bulbs to be on. Wow! Poking up above the huge beige shade was a tarnished bronze finial about an inch long.

Under that lamp at the end of the couch Mama sometimes worked crossword puzzles or sewed loose buttons. Daddy would temporarily leave his recliner to sit under the extra light to squint at a roadmap or at the faded date on an old coin. My three sisters and I took turns sitting under that lamp to do homework, color, or play games.

We laughed, argued, and watched television under that lamp. Daddy told stories about his workdays and Mama made sure he was caught up on neighborhood happenings, all under the lamp. That lamp saw holidays and birthdays and every day as soon as it was dark outside it was turned on. It was the last light to go out at night. That same lamp had been there forever and would be there forever. Such a thing couldn’t be replaced.

One day Mama replaced it.

I came home after school to see the old lamp standing beside the trash can. The shade itself, admittedly less beige and torn in two spots, had been smashed unceremoniously into the trash can. Poking up above the less beige lampshade was the tarnished bronze finial. I pulled at the finial and realized it could be unscrewed from the shade. I’d gotten it almost off when Mama walked by on her way to the clothesline.

“You want that thing?” she asked as she adjusted the laundry basket on her hip.

“Yep.”  I said. I removed the finial and kept it.

That was almost forty years ago and I still have it.

I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve come across that finial, but each time, I’ve held it and remembered countless days and nights at home as a kid. That little finial sat in the same room with me and my family as we celebrated happy times, cried over sad times, or did absolutely nothing but be with each other one regular old evening after another.

Photographs are wonderful, but to hold an object in your hand that has the power to bring back so many memories is a gift. We should accept those when they’re given.

I have several boxes full of items like the finial. Sometimes I go to the boxes just to have a finial moment with one object or another.

When I hold a tiny porcelain giraffe I think about Nannie in her chair by the window. She’s crocheting and smiling because someone’s walking up the path under the walnut tree coming for a visit. Her rolls are almost ready in the oven and my aunt Dessie will be over later to fix her hair for church tomorrow. Nannie had a hundred houseplants and for years the tiny porcelain giraffe stood in the dirt under her Christmas cactus. When she gave me the plant I got the giraffe. The Christmas cactus died long ago, but I kept the tiny giraffe and when I look at it I see the plant blooming on Nannie’s table.

Three little magnets I keep in the box remind me of Granddaddy. When I was a kid he used those magnets to show me “magic”. He’d put one magnet on the dining room table and ask it to spin, which it did wildly for him but not for me! I never thought to look for him holding the other two magnets in his hand under the table, close enough to make the third one react on the tabletop. He could make two magnets stick together or make them push apart, all at his command. It was magic to me. Even when I was old enough to know how he did it, I played along. The satisfied grin he gave after each performance was enough to keep me playing dumb forever. One day he called me over to the swing where he sat chewing tobacco. He “taught” me the trick, swore me to secrecy, and gave me the three little magnets.

The jagged little puppy tooth I keep makes me smile. The collie we had growing up was a good friend to us all and I still miss her, my first dog as a kid. We got Mitzi as a puppy and for thirteen years she watched me and my sisters grow up. She walked Mama and Daddy back and forth to the garden and she was gentle towards the many smaller animals that came and went through our house during her time. As a puppy, she lost that tooth in the kitchen one day and before Mama could sweep it up I took it to my room. I remember when we brought Mitzi home and I remember when we buried her. A thousand fun times are recalled when I look at the little tooth that once gnawed my hand while a tiny tail wagged.

My boxes are full of items that spark “finial moments” for me. The hinge from a gate by the barn, a feather from a quail I hatched in an incubator, a pocket knife, and a simple brown rock are just some of the items. All hold stories and images stronger for me than any photograph could trigger. I remembered these things as I talked in the antique store that day.

My friend listened to me go on as I stood there with the old Thanksgiving decoration in my hand. Several times his eyes glazed over, boredom I’d assumed, so I cut my story short. As it turned out he wasn’t bored, he was remembering…

I leaned over to put the broken turkey decoration back on the shelf as I wrapped up my story but before I could stick it back between the Mason jars and the wicker baskets my friend took it from my hand.

“You want that thing?” I asked

“Finial moment.” he said, and headed to the cashier.

Stuart M. Perkins

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286 Comments

Filed under Family

286 responses to “Finial Moment

  1. I simply loved it! Story-telling at its finest. Thank you.

  2. Reblogged this on Lemonade Pink and commented:
    I love this writer. I love what he calls “finial” moments-I’m sentimental, too. (Well, I’ve nailed the “mental” part anyway…) Enjoy! -Kim

  3. Beautiful! This resonated so much. I too have finial moments, but I have boxes of them all over the place, under beds, in wardrobes etc. My minimalist daughter knows not of their existence as she would have them all in the bin in the blink of an eye! I am leaving them all to my son as he will revere them as much as I! I do have one item on public display, though: a cheap chipped pottery Father Christmas custard jug my Nannie used every year on Boxing Day when her grandchildren came for tea – a tremendous spread of highly decorated cakes, sugared almonds, sugar mice (I’m sure there were more wholesome items but being a child these were what drew my attention!) We all tucked in and had such a whale of a time. Nannie would sit in the corner in her usual armchair with a tray on her knee. It held a plate with a slice of ham, a tomato, a slice of brown bread and butter. Beside it was an orange. She was insulin-dependent diabetic. She couldn’t taste her own deliciious confections, but made them for us every weekend.

  4. In blogland it is odd, even for me, to read every word. I’ve become an expert skimmer. But I read every word of this story.

    I don’t have many totems left, I’ve given them up through the years because sometimes the weight of them is too much to carry any further. I do have your mother’s lamp though.

  5. I just shared this on Facebook; here’s what I wrote with the link, which I thought you might enjoy. Thank you for this article, I enjoyed it very much!

    “Earlier today, Ron and I opened a box that he had shipped from his parents’ place several years ago and never opened. In it were treasures, among a few mundane things (little packages of earplugs cleverly used as packing peanuts, a bottle of Cal-Mag, which was fortuitous, as we are out of it) Handmade lace; photographs and slides, letters and postcards; a dip pen from the Yukon and an engraved tankard with inscriptions to his dad; an odd little hammer that had belonged to his engraver grandfather: the physical bits and pieces that remind us of family and experiences. I have a (very) few of those, too, and will pass them on with stories to the nieces and nephews, eventually.
    Then this bit of writing popped into my day, when I followed up the writer, who had followed my blog. Synchronicity.”

  6. You’re such a wonderful story teller! Loved it! 🙂

  7. Your story was wonderfully crafted and the way you presented the little details just makes it even more better to read. Loved your Finial Moment.

  8. many of us have different objects that just ‘speak’ to us due to certain memories. most people won’t be able to grasp the importance of an object to someone when it comes to one that has a sentimental value attached to it, unless they experienced it themselves. for me, a ‘finial’ moment happens when i come across a rocking chair. reminds me of my childhood when both of my grandmas still alive.

  9. Loved this entry. With my dementia symptoms I keep photos, but lately when I go somewhere special I bring back a stuffed animal to hold. Maybe it goes along with the strength of muscle memory that holding something from a moment might very well bring back the emotional recall from the experience. THANKS

  10. I have the a baby tooth from my Clover, but all the others’ had a tooth fall out and then they ate it!

  11. I also like ‘trophies’ that remind me of previous happenings in my life. Nice story here. My! Stuart, I like your stories!

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