By Christine Tailer
The past few days have been filled with so many special, spherically persuaded smiles. Now you may well be wondering what in the world I going to write about, but perhaps not. Perhaps you know me well enough to know what I mean.
My first spherically persuaded smile came when I drove south across the river to visit a dear friend. We walked beside her creek, talking about wildflowers, our families and our daily lives, and before I left to head back to the creek, she gave me eight beautiful marbles that had been in her family for decades. They had been a gift from her aunt, and she was told that they had been her uncle’s back when he was young. Neither child nor grownup had ever played with the beautiful glass orbs. I wondered at their pristine story, knowing that they held one, but not sure what it might have been.
Perhaps they had been given to my friend’s uncle by someone he had so admired that he had not wanted to play with them and had carefully put them away, only bringing them out for treasured smiles. Or perhaps he had saved up his childhood pennies, and had finally been able to purchase the marbles at the town store, and again, had put them away and had only brought them out to admire. These marbles had never graced a taw line drawn in the dirt. They had never been held to knuckle down and play a game of ringer for keeps. All I really knew with certainty, was that these marbles had been carefully tucked away and treasured, and I knew that I would likewise hold them ever so close to my heart. Yes, of course I smiled.
My next spherically persuaded smiles found me driving east, again across the river, but this time I was heading upstream to where the river takes a turn sharp turn and begins its westerly flow. This is the land where marbles were made, and where, over the course of last century, multiple marble factories had once stood in towns named Ravenswood, Paden City, Pennsboro, and Sistersville. Only one factory remains where the small glass orbs still roll red hot down the spiraling rollers.
It seems that over the passing years, children grew to no longer treasure getting down for a good game of mibs, and the factories, one by one, shut down their furnaces, and closed their doors. There are, however, still a few children, as well a bunch of now grown children like myself who continue to love the small glass spheres. We periodically gather together, and share our love of marbles. This past week was one of those periodic occasions. We gathered in a hotel in the heart of marble country, some folks even staying several nights. Room doors were left open, and marble folks walked up and down the halls, visiting from room to room, sharing stories and marveling at each others’ marble displays. Countless marbles passed from hand to hand, having been traded, bought, sold or simply admired. I counted 27 rooms of marble folks in all. Everyone was happy. Everyone laughed and smiled.
I have gotten to know these folks over the years and truly love many of them. They might have just driven down the road, or they may have been on the road for hours or even a whole day to come together and share their passion and knowledge. Some folks even fly in from truly faraway places just to get a chance to get together.
Marbles were everywhere. They flowed across every surface in the small hotel rooms. They lay on bedspreads and desks. They were stacked in boxes on the floor. Some folk even brought folding tables and set them up to better display their mibs. Greg and I only stayed for the day, arriving early and heading back to the creek before dark, but I couldn’t help but wonder how these folks managed to find a spot where they could sleep in their marble-filled rooms.
Several rooms captured my heart, but there was one in particular, that of an older fellow from whom, years ago, I had bought one of my first marble treasures, a marble-lined jewelry tray. Whenever he sees me, he jumps up from his chair, with a warm hug and a beaming smile and says how good it is to see me. Perhaps he greets everyone in this manner, his heart is so big, and his memory so good, but no matter what, he gives me the wonderful gift of believing that I am special to him. I know that he is special to me.
I carefully unwrapped the marbles that my friend had given me. Oh yes, he exclaimed. They were beautiful, and he would gladly have taken them back home with him, but I smiled. I told him how special they were to me as I placed them back in my pocket. Then his phone rang. He excused himself, telling me with a quizzical look, that he’d better take this call. It was from his doctor. He answered the call, and I watched as a huge smile slowly spread across his face. It was his doctor’s nurse. She had found a whole collection of marbles for him.
After he hung up, he marveled that she had remembered his love of marbles and had called, but I understood. He holds a very special place in my heart, and really, marble folk are like this. Our hearts are not so much warmed by the small spherical glass orbs, as they are warmed by the people that these small orbs share with us, and of course, I smiled.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.