Well, technically, there aren’t any jewels. At least I don’t have any. I’m pretty sure one of my sisters has some, her husband is a jewel buying kind of guy, and probably a few of my cousins, but not many, we’re really not a people who adorn themselves much. I don’t have any at all. I've got two pairs of cheap earrings.
What else I have is my great-grandmother’s rocking chair, Berta B.’s mother Libby McKeage Bailey, Berta B. my grandmother, the saint, and her mother, Libby Bailey, something more than a saint.
At least that’s the family lore. We’ve got lots of lore, lots more lore than jewels. Lore is, of course, far more valuable. It would be even more valuable if there were future generations to pass it on to.
We’ve kind of fizzled out, the Bailey’s. It’s a name I’ve never carried. I sometimes got the impression my Lay cousins were a little offended by my aunt’s insistence on calling the annual family get together the Bailey Bash, given that she never carried that name, either. Funny how a person will attach herself to a particular generation, or line, and how quickly those lines diverge.
But not really. It's generational. Times have changed, families don't stay together geographically, we've lost more than tribe in the modern world, our entire social structure has changed in a wink of evolutionary time.
Libby Bailey contracted polio as a child and was left with one leg useless, a shriveled thing, but still, she went to school, even some college, or the Normal school, not the one in OK, she was born somewhere else along the way west, not a single trek, but a gradual movement of the family from Vermont westward, she was probably born and raised in Kansas or some such, but her parents had been born in Vermont, and their parents before them, and her kids would all be born in OK.
So she with her shriveled leg and stick learned to be a school ma’am (and in case you’re wondering, Libby bore my grandmother in 1895, Libby herself was born in 1856), met and married Rufus Bailey, bore nine children by him, raised eight of them to adulthood, washed the diapers and worked the farm, taught the locals their letters and numbers (and probably Shakespeare, that would be a Bailey woman), and mostly played nursemaid to my own wise elder, rocked her in that chair over there, my wise elder now 87 years old herself.
She still sleeps in the bed she was born in. My mother and all her other siblings were born in that bed, too. One of my cousins or their kids will lay claim to it when the time comes. Grandma’s rocker wasn’t something I begged for (I did put my mark on the high dresser, another remnant schlepped via wagon cross country, but someone else can have it, I wont’ be able to fill it or have a place for it), grandma's rocker was left behind like so many things in the house I bought from my aunt, she didn’t have room for it in her new place, like so many things she left there, she got lucky with her big move, I got lucky with it, too, but for her luck came in unloading stuff easily, mine was more about the deal I got on the house.
And now, I’m stuck with the chair.
Don’t get me wrong; I love old things. I love old family things. The chair is not fancy, at all, it’s probably home made, it’s been modified at least once, that adds to its character. Libby’s gardening knife, the one she crawled around the yard with, it will go with me. I made sure my mother's hand crocheted popcorn bedspread got to a younger generation person, the things I’ve got in the cedar chest will ship easily enough, Miss Fran’s hand made quilts will find a home, even the one falling apart, Walken will go to his granddaughter, or to Kay’s granddaughter, I guess maybe that would make Debbie his niece, but the problem in my immediate family is that we’re basically done, unless either of my two brothers' firstborn have children, something I don’t know.
Kind of sad, that not knowing, but that’s my family.
More than once I’ve told folks that when I decided to do the camper thing (and funny, since I’ve made that decision I’ve discovered LOTS of people are suddenly making that decision, folks my age) that I did a walk through of the house and discovered that there was not a single thing I cared all that much about or that I could not live without and how freeing that was and it’s true and when it comes down to it, Libby Bailey’s rocking chair fit right on in that category. The cedar chest I’ve had forever fit right in that category. The cat, I care a whole lot about, and he’s still a huge consideration in my life. The stuff, not so much.
The chair? I told my friend Ren yesterday I thought a nice ceremony in the back yard, burning it symbolically in effigy of my family line might be meaningful. Grandma’s (not my grandma’s) rocking chair is the reason I held off telling my wise elder I planned on unloading everything and hitting the road.
And sure as hell, I sent a nice, long, reassuring explanation of my life plan, figuring word would get back to her soon enough as I unloaded those easily shippable family jewels on folks. Her very first inquiry was what I was going to do with the chair.
Burn it was not the answer she wanted, so I didn’t give it.