Skip to comments.Jade Elephants (VANITY)
Posted on 08/16/2013 9:14:29 PM PDT by rlmorel
I was thinking of my mom today, and it brought me to something I periodically recall every few years: her Jade Elephants.
My mother had two jade elephants. Actually, they weren't jade, they were ceramic painted green. She got those when we lived in the Philippines. My mother told me they were flown into Clark AFB from Vietnam aboard a C-130.
They were big, 2-3 feet tall, 1-3 feet wide, with the trunk in the down position. We used to have a beautiful wooden, marble-topped coffee table that died at the hands of us children, and my mom saved that inch-thick slab of white marble that was four or five feet long, and when we got the elephants, that slab was laid across the tops with one elephant at each end. My parents also bought an nice Sansui stereo, and that elephant table held it quite comfortably, turntable and stuff on top, the amplifier and reel-to-reel on the floor between the elephants, and one big wooden speaker on the outside of each elephant.
My mom loved those elephants. In the movie "Risky Business", the mother of the character played by Tom Cruise had a fixation with a crystal egg on the mantle. He was terrified that she would notice if it had even been moved a fraction of an inch.
My mom was the same way with those elephants.
I must take a detour here and mention this, because it seems to fit together here. Previously, her favorite object had been a large, beautifully carved and polished mahogany statue of a negrito hunter. It was about three feet tall, wonderfully carved smooth and stained a dark, inky, black. It was also anatomically correct in all ways. Quite detailed, it was. This was modestly covered with a multicolored woven and fringed loincloth that never seemed to be on its wooden body where it should have been.
As we young kids regarded it from across the room, clothed only in that modest loincloth and holding a spear, it proved an irresistible target. Instead of ending up in the circular cork target on the wall, our brass-tipped darts became deeply embedded in his, er wood.
We outright ruined that statue. But oddly enough, I never remember her getting crazy about it and chewing us out.
But now, it suddenly comes to me. She thought it was hilarious she COULDN'T discipline us it fits so perfectly! The thought of us grinning pre-adolescent urchins winding up and throwing those darts as hard as we could from about five feet way in order to make them stick in that hard, mahogany, er wood was probably too much for her. She likely couldn't risk losing it in front of us.
But the elephants were different. I think those elephants meant more to her than ceramic furniture, they symbolized something for her. She told me late in life that she got one of the few undamaged pairs off of that C-130. All the other crates contained largely broken segments of elephants. But she got good ones.
So one day, when I was in college, I was vacuuming my room. I lived at home and commuted to college, held down a job and paid for much of my tuition with the GI Bill. (The old GI Bill ) I lived in the attic, which was the first thing my dad renovated in that old house that he grew up in.
I moved the elephants off to the side, about a foot apart, and stood the marble on end leaning up against one of them. I had it balanced just right, and figured I was only going to leave it that way for about 30 seconds while I vacuumed where the stereo had been set up.
As I began to vacuum, the stiff Electrolux hose tapped the marble slab.
As I watched, horrified, the marble rectangle's balance gave way, and it leaned in slow motion with increasing pressure against the elephant it rested against.
Gaping, I watched the elephant tip, and fall, slowly, inexorably towards the other elephant. When it hit, there was the sound of ceramic against ceramic, and bits of green flew outwards. They both came to rest as the marble slab continued down on top, and when it reached its limit, there was a loud crack, and the marble counter broke in two.
I stood there, astonished into speechlessness, mouth open. Three of my mother's most cherished symbols and memories of her life as a Navy wife lay broken on the floor in one, fell, swoop.
I was in panic. What on earth would I tell her? I walked numbly down to the kitchen, and she was doing something at the kitchen table, and had reading glasses on. When I walked in, the glanced up and did a double take. She froze said "Bob, what's wrong?" I said that I didn't know how to tell her, so I was just going to tell her: I broke her elephants.
She stared blankly at me, still frozen, then waved her hand and said "Ah. Those things." Hah, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I stammered, and she took off her glasses, looking at me and said: "How could I be upset? I think about those elephants, and I think of the broken ones on the plane, and all those young men serving and dying in Vietnam, and the elephants didn't seem as important anymore."
My mom was a wonderful woman, and did I ever love her at that moment. In one statement, she had not only absolved me of my carelessness, but took away even the smallest fragment of guilt that might have gnawed at me. What a beautiful thing to do.
And, my dear Mom who has been gone some years now. It is nice thing to be able to think of her and have a big grin on my face as I do so.
Nice story. I liked it.
Thanks, DManA. Just feeling in a retrospective mood tonight. It is nice.
It was a very good and interesting read.
I thank you for it.
Hope no one ruins it for you.
Thank you for the reflection.
LOL..I promise not to take it seriously...it IS Free Republic, after all...:)
Heck. I could see nearly anything, now that you mention it. Anything from The Hugh Manatee to The Attention Whore image!
I had an aunt who for a while lived in the Philippines. She had many elephants decorating her home. Must be a Filipino thing.
our moms and dads....how we miss them...even when we get up there in age...
My parents had an Electrolux vacuum cleaner. I remember it very well.
Big Ugly Freakin’ Elephant?
What does that mean?
I don’t think it is a Filipino thing, although from what I saw, things with penises were a popular subject, ranging from a nearly naked negrito hunter to a grinning figure taking a bath in a removable wooden barrel which when removed, revealed a wooden replica to spring forth.
LOL, yes. Penises were a popular thing. I was living next to Olongapo City, and that is probably what sold there.
They were my parents.
LOL...was wondering too...what is “BUFE’s”?
Funny...my mom always wanted one. Got it when my dad retired.
Indeed I was, Chode. Indeed I was.
Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady. Thanks for sharing.
and that is why some people believe in reincarnation, and would call her an ‘old soul’.
A beautiful women, with the spiritual maturity many never reach in their lifetimes, ever.
Hah! Near exact replacements! Actually, my mom painstakingly put them back together...I was really impressed.
When we were overseas, Special Services offered Ceramics coursed, and my mom made a boatload of stuff, so she was well versed in painting and repairing them.
I remember those elephants well. Many of my fellow military wives had them and I wanted one myself. It is just as well that I didn’t get it because nothing breakable survived my youngest son for long.
However, we did get a Sansui stereo and a couple of those large brass candlesticks that still exist to this day. Actually, our son the former “destroyer” is 45 yrs old and has the stereo.
Ahhh. Women have a grace that we as men don’t have. We have our own qualities, it is sure, but women in general have a different kind than we do.
Vive la differance! (or something like that)
Dad still has two ceramic elephants he got in Taiwan while traveling between deployments to Vietnam in the mid sixties.
He's also still got a four foot carved wooden statue that is very similar to the one you describe in your post, except we boys never destroyed his (are you freekin kidding me??).
He also had a custom stereo system built for him when we lived in Okinawa that still sits (in perfect operating condition) in his living room.
Sheesh.....that was almost a half century ago, now that I look at it. It's amazing that those relics of those times survived until today.
Awesome story - what a beautiful and wise mother you had - an absolute treasure!
Oh yes, and the carved monkeypod snack trays. I still have those too. LOL
Husband was stationed at Hickam ‘68-’71 when John McCain’s father was CINCPACFLT and McCain was a POW.
Great story. Growing up I was a pain in the butt to my mom. All boy. And she would get into a fit over the littlest things it seemed.
But I do recall breaking a large vase of her mother’s that sat by the fireplace in the living room. The fireplace that had never been used. And the living room that was off limits to me.
I don’t recall much about it, but that she didn’t come down hard on me about it. I was amazed.
I fear that she is on her last legs now at the age of 95, with some pretty rapid developments in her failing health. (Five weeks ago she lived alone and drove herself to the doctor! Three days later she was at the ER, and lots of poking and exams and head-scratching since.). Now she needs a walker to get around and almost full-time care at her house.
I’ll have to bring up the story of the vase and get her take on it. She still remembers EVERYTHING (and I mean everything - names, places, etc.) which is great when it comes to talking with her and my kids about growing up, surviving the Depression, etc.
Although, being a great mom (recognized by the time I was twenty-something), she’ll probably feign “what vase?”
Beautiful! I have a set of Noritake also-not the exquisite bone china- but very nice, that my husband brought back from Guam. I hope that some family member wants it someday.
In fact, I have Witness on my nightstand as a direct result of reading rlmorel's About page awhile back.
My mom is gone too now. Three years. Once in the late 60s when I took an R&R trip to Taipei, Taiwan, I ran across some hardwood octagonal end tables that had green marble inserts in the top...very, very well made.
I bought two and took them, had them crated on the spot and took them to the nearest A/FPO and shipped them home. I remember the guy telling me I’d just squeaked in under the wire “70lbs and 100inches Length/Girth”.
Long story short, about a month or two later I managed to wangle a call home to the nearest Air Base by my home and then get the operator to make an off base call. Got to speak to my mom, and the first thing she said was “I got those tables exactly on my birthday!” “The RFD mailman sure had a time getting them in and out of his station wagon.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d forgotten her birthday. I just bought them because I thought they were neat and I didn’t have anything special in mind for them.
WHICH BRINGS TO MIND ANOTHER STORY: (bear with me)
When I was a boy about 5-6 I remember bugging my mom relentlessly about going into the woods to find a turtle. I wanted her to take me to find a turtle. Well, one day she said “Come on, we’ll go turtle hunting.”
I remember that it was within 10 minutes, she excitedly shouted “There’s one!”. We took it home, me happy, and I kept it for a couple of days, and then we took it back.
A few months before she died, we were just sitting and talking about old things in the past, and we finally got around to the ‘turtle’....she told me that she’d been dreading taking me to find a turtle because she didn’t have a clue from Adam about hunting turtles. She said when she saw that turtle, it was like manna from heaven.
Since then, I’ve always wondered about these two events and what they mean and I think that my conclusion is that “God provides” not necessarily for me, but he did for my mom because I never knew a more loving, God fearing woman who always did right by those around her.
Yep, that’s it. BUFE. We still have one in storage that I brought home from Kam Rahn Bay. Beautiful story too.
Yep, that’s it. BUFE. We still have one in storage that I brought home from Kam Rahn Bay. Beautiful story too.
Lovely story and lovely Mom!
You were very fortunate.
very nice story. I’m a very ‘things happen for a reason’ kind of person. This seems to be one of those times...it was an amazing opportunity for your mother to reveal something about herself to you. Something maybe you were searching for but didn’t know how to go about it. (all subconsciously, of course...but I’m so hokey!)
Great story. Thanks for posting.
Thanks for sharing. My mom was like that too.
I love this story! How blessed you are to have such a mom! When I was in college, I broke a crystal goblet belonging to my aunt. She had inherited the set of goblets from her mother. The style was no longer made. It was irreplaceable. I froze in horror and then immediately began apologizing profusely. My aunt looked at me and said, “That goblet was just a thing. You are far more important to me than that thing!” I’ve never forgotten that moment, and in fact, was able to say that to my daughter when she totaled (and I mean totaled) one of our cars. As I ran to the ambulance to find her standing by the door, totally unscathed, her first words were, “Mom, I’m so sorry about the car.” Guess what my first words were to her. “Baby, it’s just a thing. You are so much more important to me than any thing!” What a gift my aunt gave me, and I was able to pass it on.