Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Paperweight

 As a child, I remember visiting my Aunt Belle's house in Miamisburg and being endlessly intrigued by a paperweight. She'd dutifully take it down from the shelf and place it on the floor for me to examine. I was most impressed by it's weight, that something so small could be so heavy. I could roll it on the floor - and she exhibited little fear that I might break it - or hold it in my hands on the sofa. It seemed to weigh down on me at such times that I worried I might not be able to breathe.

 I was too young then to ask questions about the paperweight. It was enough that I had a lovely and unique toy. But when she died in 1962 the object was passed along to me. Even then, I was but 13 years old.
 I remember sitting on my bed and contemplating this orb: the elongated bubbles of air trapped within glass (especially the one in the middle that serves as a stigma), the milky and turquoise shades therein that formed the shape of a lily, the perfectly clear sphere itself.

 I have seen real lilies such as this but for the odd color. I'd look at the air bubbles, wondered when they had been trapped there, think of them as little time capsules of an era passed. I'd run my finger along the rough pontil scar, where the punt was broken as the glass blower finished his work.

 The pontil, of course, also served as a semi-flat surface to sit the paperweight upon. A bit rough, I imagine my aunt placed it on one of her delicate doilies so as to not scratch the shiny wood of one of her antique stands.
 How old is the paperweight? My guess is that it's Victorian. What is it's value? I suppose it is one of those mass-produced objects of little intrinsic value. But it holds for me a world of memories, trapped forever in glass.
 As nowhere else, time stands still for me here. The paperweight is unchanged since I first laid eyes on it in the early 1950's. While my wrinkles deepen, the paperweight's lily stands forever fresh and new. It is as close as we come to immortality, trapping beauty in molten glass.

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