Reliquary for the Common Man

by Jeanne Quan

Reliquary – “a container or shrine in which sacred relics are kept”

Dateline: March, 1970

Set the Scene: Village of Chauncey,Ohio (427 acres), foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, just a few twisting miles from Ohio University.

Players: John (21) and Jeanne (22) Eckrich

The couple, newly married as of December, 1969 rented their home from an elderly couple in the village who had scratched their living from those hills coal-mining. Contrary to the zeitgeist of the time, just two months before the shootings at Kent State University in May scattered students at Ohio University after an overnight shutdown. 

Tensions were high.

During the months leading up to the shutdown the village’s own church held potlucks in the basement community room where town folk and our “alternative life style” friends share casseroles, zucchini bread and, from time to time, home brews in the parking lot. 

We settled in to our home with what we thought were all the basics, student grade perhaps, but comfortable. 

One of those days in early spring an unexpected and impressively large package was delivered to our front porch. Inside, a long-delayed wedding gift from a well intended distant relative. I can’t begin to do justice to the gift with words, so a photograph will have to do.

A silver egg-shaped poacher? warmer? authenticated with a mark from Sheffield, England festooned with roosting chicken atop , inside rests a rack for four eggs, beneath an ornate base with what we presumed to be a cup to hold 3-or 5- minute portions of Sterno ? Tableside elegance. 

The table was set with our wedding china, bubbly poured, toast buttered, as well as my favorite pink grapefruit marmalade ready to receive the eggs. Even when we placed boiling water in the bottom eggs were never quite cooked. Perhaps this is how “fancy people” in England prefer their eggs? 

But I loved/love the extravagance and the sheer silliness. I never let it tarnish. It’s become my fondest treasure resting on my living room side table as a reminder of my youth and what surprises may land on our doorsteps. 

Decades have passed. I want the story to be shared.

First as a joke I told myself and then with a few understanding friends, how much I loved the quirkiness and that I’ve decided that this will be my reliquary, a place for a bit of bone and ash.

Yes a bit “cheeky” but as I’ve told my son if not attended to the shine will tarnish. Therefore, he won’t forget me because the darn thing will have to be polished from time to time. I’ve written a case of Wright’s Silver Polish Cream in to my will. 

For several years now I’ve been cataloguing the things I’ve lived with. I’ve moved many times, each home smaller and smaller by choice. I’ve been fortunate to inherit many lovely things, not necessarily expensive, but with character and history. 

My first task was to create, as many of us do, an inventory for insurance valuation but I quickly realized a simple list with photo wasn’t a reflection of the item’s true value. 

Here are the basics of my process. If you’re lucky it’s a never-ending task with so much to reflect upon and share. It’s nurturing and a gift to not only those receiving but to me giving, most of it now. 

PROCESS:  create your own process, customize according to how much you enjoy writing, photography (on my phone mostly), and technology. 

  1. I walk around the house taking quick shots on my phone to start a working list. No need for beauty shots or polished copy at this time. I always give myself to visit and visit again.
  2. Create or use a template (sample in Resources) to either record the provenance /”stats”and consider whether the item piques your interest to write more. 

For example, I have a scarf , Parisian pink with bold black stripes and polka dots that was my mother’s. Very much in the style of the ‘50s. I wear for a host of a boost of nurturance and when I need her near to me. 

  1. Set up a 3-ring binder of rough drafts with print outs of your photos. I use clear page protectors for the short term though they’re not good for the long term storing original documents or photos. I’ve also set up a Dropbox account for easy access to edit and share when I’m ready to do so. I personally feel more confident having both print as well as being saved on my computer. 
  1. Start writing freely. Add as much color and context as you can. You’ll go back to dream and edit. Up to this time most of my writing has been with an eye towards clarity and purpose in business. I consider that a skill I’m proud of but need to loosen it up a bit. I joined a small writing group but found myself intimidated. I have yet to go back but…

I was described by someone in the group as “cinematic” and with an “active soul”. 

Of course I was flattered but when I asked her what she meant she replied that I TOLD a colorful story with enough plot, motive, and character development. And me an introvert ! So push on with my story telling on paper. 

  1. Share freely when you’re ready. Even if you’re in the rough draft stage . Understand it will never be perfect. 

Your work telling the story is the gift.

RESOURCES: 

Thanksgiving Reunions Are A Great Time To Explore Family Genealogy

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson

One Reply to “Reliquary for the Common Man”

  1. A fun, funny, and useful post! Perhaps a book could be written called “Wedding Gifts We Have Known and Loved,” with anecdotes about quirky, personal wedding presents — “gifts that have kept on giving.” The antique silver egg cooker (turned urn) is a great example.

    Like

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