The lighter is a small thing and yet so incredibly intricate and beautiful. My mother was given the lighter by my father on a date of significance known only to them. It was wrought of various metals and engraved with elaborate scrollwork which to my young eyes formed a fanciful storybook forest. The lighter had another enchanting attribute. It was musical. Sometimes, when I was sad, she’d hand it to me and I’d wind it, cautiously, so as not to break it. That’s when I’d hear the delicate and haunting notes of “Smoke gets in your eyes” release from their tiny cage.
Mom passed when I was thirteen and the lighter went to my father who kept it safe until his passing at which time it came to rest with me. The lighter, of course, is a tangible reminder that sparks an array of intangible memories. Mom, the firecracker, all five-foot-two of her wildly dancing around the living room taunting me to put my book down and join her. I can hear her telling stories with the ladies sitting in their lawn chairs in the courtyard as I lay on a tree branch overhead. I can see her capturing every detail of a face in a charcoal sketch on a crisp white page as I hover over her shoulder. I can feel her pride as she slips a blue bow in my hair just before she sends her “Alice” off to “Wonderland” on a grand grade-school stage.
The lighter is past all practical use. The flame no longer burns. The music no longer plays. Still, all these memories and more ignite and rise to life from this tiny touchstone as it rests in my palm. Yes, and when I hold it, I can still hear it’s song speaking to my heart all these many years later and smoke gets in my eyes.
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