Monday, December 20, 2010

The Lure of Shiny Objects

When I was three or four, my mother took me with her on an errand to the local lumberyard.  It was a real lumberyard, nothing like a Lowe's or Home Depot, but it did have a small display area with samples of (I assume) items in stock and available by special order.  On this particular day, one of the employees had apparently been laying out mosaic patterns with loose ceramic tiles on a table in the center of the room.  The tiles were small, about 1/2 inch to a side, and had a slightly textured but shiny glaze.  One of the tiles in particular caught my eye because it was so beautiful.  The color was bluer than turquoise but too green to be pure blue.  I picked it up to look at it and then, moved by impulse and the elastic ethical code of the average toddler, I put it in my pocket.

I don't remember whether I showed the tile to my mother after we got home or whether she discovered it herself, but I do remember the storm that erupted.  We drove back to the lumberyard and I had to give the tile back to the store manager and apologize.  Unfortunately for the lesson my mother was trying to teach, the manager either thought the whole incident was funny or I was cute, and he gave the tile back to me.  I still have it in a box of mementos out in the garage.  The lesson was seared into my preschool brain anyway, and that was my first and last foray into deliberate theft.

About 10 years ago I was attracted to another shiny thing in the San Francisco Nordstrom's.  It was a beautiful Art Nouveau-style marcasite brooch with a couple of decorative gray crystals.  It was quite expensive for a piece of costume jewelry because it was handcrafted, unique, and beautiful, but I bought it and have had great pleasure wearing it over the years.  This month I wore it on the lapel of a velvet blazer to one of the holiday parties we attended.

The occasion was a dinner dance, and although we sat at a table with friends, most of the people there were strangers to us.  The room was quite warm, so I left my blazer hanging on the back of my chair whenever we danced.  At some point during the evening when our table was largely deserted, someone else was captivated by my brooch and took it for (I presume) herself.  The value, after all, was in its craftsmanship and appearance, not the materials.

I am still a little angry, but I have enough other jewelry that I can't honestly say I can't live without this one little pin.  I do understand the lure of shiny objects - and all our material possessions are really just on loan to us anyway.

“Property is theft” Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

No comments:

Post a Comment