Tomorrow Thomas starts his first paid job in theatre. It isn’t exactly playing Hamlet on Broadway, but it’s a real job with a cool theatre company that pays small amounts of real money, so we’re pretty excited. He’s doing an internship with the Chester Theatre Company, where he’ll be assistant stage manager (aka Chief Flunky) for their production of An Iliad. The show sounds super cool (as does the season), and I’m much of the sadz that I won’t be able to see it. You New England types should definitely go see it and report back!
The following text exchange between Sue and I was kicked off by my dropping Thomas off at the MSP airport for his flight back to Massachusetts:
Me: Tom’s heading off through security looking all grown up and scruffy! Love you!
How exactly did we get to be parents of an increasingly adult-like creature?
…a commodity has value and a gift does not. A gift has worth. – Lewis Hyde
Tomorrow (24 June) marks the 24th anniversary of our marriage!
There are so many things I’m grateful for, and no way to enumerate them or document them here, so I’ll settle for an example.
Among her many “strangely inventive” artistic talents, Sue makes books. Wonderful, handmade books, where she cuts and folds all the paper, sews together the signatures, builds the cover, and glues it all together. Some of these are displayed in galleries, while others (such as the one pictured here) are notebooks or journals filled with blank pages inviting us to share our thoughts in word or sketch.
For the past several years, Sue has made such journals as high school graduation gifts for our and, more substantially, Tom’s friends in that year’s graduating class. As he moves on to college, the numbers are beginning to contract, but over the years she’s made many dozens of these books, often for people we didn’t actually know terribly well. That’s a lot of work, constructing by hand an object whose future is far from certain. She is, after all, making blank books, in an age where the future of books is at best unclear, an age where most are far more likely to send a text message or post on a blog [I’M LOOKING AT ME!] than to write a letter or keep a journal on paper.
Thus these are, in the true sense that Hyde means in the opening quote, gifts. As handcrafted pieces of art, they have clear worth, but their value (and how they are valued by the recipients) is quite uncertain.
Yet she keeps making them. In a flurry of activity every May between the end of the University school year and the high school graduation she cuts and folds and glues and frets. She picks out different papers to use as covers, and has Tom give her feedback on which covers would make the most sense for which graduate. She increases the worth of the world (if not its value) through these gifts, each of which is in fact a multiple gift. It is obviously a gift to the graduate, but this effort is also a gift to our son, and a thank-you to the families of these students who have been important to him.
And, to the point of all this, these are also a gift to me. For while each of these books is made by her and is officially a gift from Thomas, her work enriches us all and the glow it casts as it goes out into the world reflects back on our whole family even if it was her hands that did all the sewing.
So I say “Thank You”, for this and the untold gifts large and small that she has shared with me. It has been a truly splendid 24 years together, and I look forward to many more decades to come!