Monday, June 17, 2013

The Chandelier

Once upon a time in the early 70s in a place far from here, a little boy fell under the spell of a beautiful object that held its beauty in teardrops of dangling glass.
I don't really have a first memory of it; it’s more of an awareness. I was younger than seven when it shined its way onto my radar and bedazzled me with its glittering prisms that created sparkling rainbows. I know this because when I was seven-and-a-half my grandparents moved from the "old" house into the "new" house (more than 30 years later and we still differentiate between the two houses like that). Anyway, I remember it hanging in the formal living room of the old house: a grand room full of furniture that was different from all the other furniture in the house; that room you weren't allowed to enter unless it was a special occasion like prom night or Easter morning, and you were in there to have your picture taken.

Isn't it funny what we remember? I remember my grandmother's house always being clean and in perfect order--both the old one and the new one. As for the old one, it truly was an old house complete with crumbling front porch that was closed off and to be avoided at all costs lest you fall through the rotting wood. It had been my granddaddy's grandmother's house. Once inside, however, it was grandmother’s house. No crumbling porch or sagging roof mattered. It was easy, magic, bliss. It was perfect to me. Being at her house always made my heart leap with happiness. 

My child self was first mesmerized by this hanging light and its shimmering teardrops of dangling glass in that old house. It was unlike anything I had seen in anyone else’s house. It was so grand. I had no understanding of the words opulent or extravagant when I was young, but as an adult looking back on it, that’s exactly what I think of the chandelier hanging in that formal living room. It was, to me, the utmost in opulence. I’m fairly certain I thought my grandparents were wealthy. They weren’t. They were middle class with good taste and that chandelier was the grandest of accessories.

When their new house was ready for occupancy, the chandelier made the move. It was hung in the new formal living. The same furniture from the previous formal living room was arranged in the new formal living room, the aesthetic completed with white shag carpet and a window treatment that Scarlett O’Hara would have been proud to take down and have made into a dress. I was old enough to be aware of beautiful things by then and seeing the chandelier hanging in that room was when my fascination with it really took root. 

I used to sneak a stroll through that room when no one was watching just so I could feel for a moment like I was transported to another place--say a room in the Carrington mansion on Dynasty or the Chancellor mansion on The Young and the Restless. I have always had a vivid imagination and that room became the setting for my fantasies when I could actually find a moment to tiptoe into it: moving nothing yet touching everything; absorbing the atmosphere. If I listen hard enough I can hear my grandmother calling my name from the den asking me what I was doing. She knew when I was being too quiet that I was in that room.

I loved to play dress up as a little boy and nothing was better than having a large "diamond" hanging from a chain around my neck. I was so excited when I got tall enough to reach the lowest hanging teardrops on the chandelier. (It ranks right up there with my feet fitting into my mother’s shoes, but that’s another story.) When I found myself in the house alone I would trespass into that room and take one of the teardrops down and hang it from a necklace that I had managed to secretly take from my grandmother’s bedroom. I remember the heart-racing fear of getting caught and the heart-pounding race against time to get that teardrop looped back into its slot when the back door opened. I remember exiting the room at the end farthest from the back door turning as I did to make sure there was no evidence that I'd been inside it at all.

Now the grand, opulent, extravagant, shimmering light is mine. I own it. It glimmers and sparkles in my bedroom. I washed, dried, and painstakingly hung each of the 69 glass teardrops. It was like decorating a Christmas tree. You know how that is: you hang a few ornaments then step back and look. Well, that’s exactly what I did. I hung a few teardrops then stepped off the chair, looking up and marveling as the bare bones of this light fixture began to take shape with each new ornamental embellishment. At least there were predesignated holes for all these “ornaments.” The bygone era sounds of “Moonlight Serenade” filled my apartment creating the perfect ambience as I incorporated into my own home an object that had so fascinated me as a child. The nostalgia factor was overwhelming.

It’s surreal to see it hanging in my bedroom. I can’t seem to stop staring at it. I walk into the room and stare at it. I lie on my bed and stare at it. I can see it so clearly hanging in my grandparents house. I find my mind awash with memories, my face covered in a smile. Of course the downside of it hanging in my house means my grandparents are no longer alive. That means there’s a bit of sadness attached to the happiness it brings me. Still, there are more smiles than tears when I look at it. It brings with it good memories of family dinners and laughter around the dining room table. 

That little boy who used to thrill at the stolen moments of hanging one of those teardrops around his neck grew up to be the man who couldn’t resist hanging one of those teardrops around his neck before placing it in its rightful slot in its new home. 

We can't stop time from passing. My adult self cherishes this memento from my past. I’m so proud to have it. I feel I’m the perfect guardian of The Chandelier.