This is a rock tumbler, seeing it is like a blast from my past.
My eldest brother is a gemologist, and as a boy, we had one of these babies grinding away in my dad’s workshop (a large-closet size room off the carport) for many a day.
It was kind of fascinating to watch him go out in the desert, hunting for stones, and come back with a pocketful. He would sort them and then put some paste of some sort in the tub and flip the switch. Then it would turn and turn and turn, slowly but surely. It was kind of loud, sometimes kind of smelly, often in the way.
I always wished it would hurry up and finish (yup, impatient even way back when).
Finally, he would decide it had turned enough and he would flip the off switch. The bin would come to a halt and he would open it up and reach inside. I always tried to be right there when he did. He would pull out the same stones and they were smooth, then he would polish them and they would be like some kind of cool rugged jewels.
It was a kind of magic for a kid. It was just cool.
I lay in bed this morning, awake again at three a.m. with Gabey. He had gone back to sleep next to me, but I could not. And I started thinking about the various drama we’ve been having with the kids: nothing big, just the usual fussing here and there and kids fretting about turf and things and how come they do this and why can’t they be like that sort of things. You know, the sibling stuff, standard issue…..to an exponential factor since we have a large family.
And I think it was Kimberly Hahn who I heard once say that having family is a way to rub off your sharp edges. And I remembered David’s rock tumbler.
That’s what having a big family is like. A rock tumbler.
We are tumbling stones.
We are given to each other to rub off all our sharp edges, to smooth each other out. It’s often loud, a lot messy, sometimes stinky, and frequently in the way of one of our individual desires. It’s not always easy and all that bumping and banging can hurt a bit here and there.
And yet, it is a cool thing, to be able to have each other to work away those rough bits. To learn to withstand the jagged edges of the one who scrapes across you, once again.
To get mad and frustrated and even hurt, but to learn to soothe and be soothed, to endure and withstand….to forgive and forget and move on.
It is this tumbling, this smoothing of our rugged jagged stony hearts and natures that is what we do best for each other. And what, as a family, as a large family in particular, we can do like no one else in the world. It is hard sometimes. It can hurt, frustrate, scrape and chip. But in the end, you end up with something all new again…..transformed, you could say.You end up with jewels. All different. Each unique. None just quite like the other, different size, shape, color, composition…some with streaks, some with glints of glitter.