Small, barely 5 inches across, and virtually invisible on the corner of my bedroom wall, next to the closet. The only way to hide it more effectively while still hanging it would be to display it IN the closet.
Created nearly 50 years ago by pouring plaster of Paris into a hand-carved impression in the sand.
Is it art?
Only of the most rudimentary, childish kind.
Is it valuable?
Not to anyone but me.
What, then, is the truth about “US”? Why is this talisman, of no intrinsic value and known to no one other than myself, given space on my wall? Why have I treasured it these nearly 50 years, and why, when I am gone, will others find it, sigh, and carelessly toss it into the discard bin?
This, my friends and gentle readers, is a mystery I have chosen to share with you.
More than a talisman, or a “writer’s prompt”, this strange plaque, still decorated with the sand of Fundy Bay and its original paint, is a vessel of memories, a “soul-jar” if you will.
I was four, and my sister, Debbie, would have been six. We spent those summers on Parlee Beach, leaping over seaweed in the salt water and playing endlessly on the shimmering sand.
An arts-and-crafts instructor gathered all the children together, and showed us how to dig a ‘pocket’ into the firm, damp sand, then draw a picture into it. Once the image was cast, we would pour the plaster from her large bucket, letting it sit until it hardened. Then we would paint the images.
I made a leaf, complete with ladybug, proudly painting it green and red and black, but was heartbroken when it slipped from my hands and broke.
To console me, Sis gave me hers, saying, “See, Donna, it’s US.”
Years later, going through my childhood possessions in my parents’ house, I found ‘US’. Debbie was already gone by then. But I remembered the day, as clearly as one can remember a summer day from long ago.
And ever since, it has held a place on my wall.
When I am gone, one of my children will no doubt hold it up, shake his head, and say, “What the hell is this?”
It won’t matter any more, at that point. They can throw it out.
But so long as I live, this promise stands: not a day will go by that I don’t look at it at least once, briefly, and remember…