At one point, a few months after receiving the scopes and after I had begun cataloguing them, I became a bit possessive. That is, once I knew how costly the kaleidoscopes really were, I began to worry that something might happen to them; that someone might see them through our front window and decide to break into our home and steal them. In my defence, I had never had so many objects of both sentimental and monetary value, and for the first time ever I actually considered getting insurance just to cover the scopes should they ever be taken or damaged.
Absurd, I know. It was then that I decided that it was time to start giving them away. I was holding onto the kaleidoscopes far too tightly. I was holding onto the memory of Aunt Betty inappropriately. They were objects, easily replaced, and far less valuable than any time I had ever spent with my aunt. So, I took all the scopes out of the cabinet and began deciding which ones would be best suited for my cousins who had not yet received one from their aunt. I took as much time and care as I could, if for no other reason than I knew Betty would have done no less. I wrote out what I knew about the artist who designed the scope and carefully gift-wrapped it with a note that stated that the kaleidoscope was not from me but from Aunt Betty, with love.
With love…That part gets me every time. I knew full well that the kaleidoscopes stored in the cabinet in the corner of our dining room didn’t belong to me. They belonged to my aunt. But she’s not here anymore, and yet I truly believe that the scopes have not ceased being hers. The kaleidoscopes were bestowed on me that I might have them for safekeeping until that time when I fascilitate their endowment to family and friends. So every time I chose a scope, wrapped it in tissue, wrote a note, and gifted it to someone, I did it with a sense of reverence because I was merely the intermediary between Aunt Betty and the receiver of her scope. I truly felt that it wasn’t about me, and as I continue to take photographs of the kaleidoscopes, I know it’s still not about me. It’s about limitless love; Betty’s limitless love. My aunt is dead, for sure, and one day I will be dead, too, and my photographs lost forever. But for now, there is a legacy that I feel a responsibility to nurture. The legacy isn’t one of things; of scope-collecting or photo-taking. It is a legacy of generosity. I understand now that one becomes richer having given all away. That’s an endowment worth leaving.
[“Still Life No.1” Photo I took of Carolyn Bennett’s Nadelstern scope.]