Rocks Of Ages



It started with the death of someone I’d never met.

I am a treasure seeker (aka pack-rat) and love going to auctions.  If I’m at an estate auction, I pass the time constructing a biography of the person’s life.  You can tell a lot about someone from their things.   This practice is usually entertaining, but sometimes the stuff going under the gavel is depressing.  Family pictures are the worst.  It tells a sad story when generations of black and white photos are dumped in a cardboard flat for sale.  Their curling corners say that the last of the family, or perhaps the last one to care about preserving its history, is gone.

About 7 years ago I went to an estate auction for someone I did not know.  Neighbors said that the owner was an elderly woman who had taught school for over 50 years and never married.  In less PC days, she would have been called an old maid schoolteacher. I remember that auction because that’s where I bought a box of rocks.

I’ve always liked rocks. Whether rough, craggy specimens that break open to reveal the elegant shine of quartz, a bit of leaf preserved forever as fossil or an amalgam fused together and worn smooth by time and water, the look and the feel of them appeals to me.

Much as I like rocks, however, I’m not in the habit of spending my hard earned money to buy them, even if they’re only going for $1. That’s what I paid for the rocks at this auction. I bought them because they told a story about a life, and it was a story I wanted to preserve.

005The lady was a traveler who picked up rocks and seashells as souvenirs of the places she went.  She marked each with the date and place gathered, like a Bedrock travel journal.

The oldest specimen is a seashell simply marked “Florida, 1940.” Most of her souvenirs were from Long Island, with an almost equal number from Lake Superior. In the life story I created for her, she had a brother in New York and a sister in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and she visited them on alternate summer vacations.  She also went to Florida a couple of times. Two, small rocks are marked “petrified potato, backyard.”  I’ve never heard of petrified potatoes but it’s possible.  They do look like potatoes.  Besides, she wouldn’t lie to me.

One small, very ordinary rock is marked “Wales”.  I built a whole, Katharine Hepburn in the movie Summertime fantasy about this one.    She scrimped, saved and planned for years to take this trip, and it was the highlight of her life.  She found love and romance in Europe, but circumstances kept her and her lover apart.  He stayed in Wales, and she went home – sadder, wiser, and with memories to last a lifetime.

I bought the box because nobody else wanted it, and I didn’t want her mementos tossed aside as if they meant nothing.  It was a memory adoption.

I also adopted her practice, and have chronicled my own sporadic trips in the same way ever since. There’s sea glass from my last trip to my parent’s Florida condo before they sold it, the rock plucked from the spray of the Irish Sea in 2009, and my own Brighton Beach memoir from 2 years ago. When I touch that smooth, black stone I can practically feel the sun beating down and smell the salty tang of the strong wind that was whipping off the English Channel that day.

The most recent piece in my collection is a seashell from the beach at San Francisco Bay when I visited my girls there a couple of months ago.  I augment my collection with other bits of stony memorabilia like rocks my then-young kids painted into lady bugs and Pokeballs, and pieces of purple quartz my mother-in-law used to keep by her sink.

These mementos will mean nothing to my kids when I’m gone, and that’s OK. “Stuff” is not the most important thing.  Still, when the time comes for all my treasures to go on the auction block, I hope there will be a kindred romantic soul there to see my stuff through indulgent eyes.  Someone who will be willing to invest a dollar in a box of memories.



About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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91 Responses to Rocks Of Ages

  1. notquiteold says:

    What a nice idea! I am going to adopt it too! I have several little rocks at home – if I could only remember what I was trying to remember when I picked them up – (and where I picked them up)….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dmswriter says:

    You must be cosmically related to my late, dear mother-in-law, Peg. When JoAnn died a few years ago, we cleaned out her house and came across an entire drawer filled with rocks and shells. It weighed a ton! At first, my husband and his brothers were just going to toss it, but then more sensible heads prevailed. 🙂 My sister-in-law got glass jars, divided all the rocks up, and gave a ribbon-wrapped jar to each of the grandkids. It’s a nice way to remember grandma. And yes, the rocks were from JoAnn’s roamings here and there.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Al says:

    You rock, Peg, and so does this blog. Both touching and beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. M.Winter says:

    Oh such a wonderful way to pay tribute to this owner of rocks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicely said, Peg. Love your ability to convey the sentiment behind keeping something as simple as a rock from a treasured time and place. Maybe I should start naming and dating my ‘stuff’. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Relax says:

    When the time comes, tell your kids to post the address of your memorabilia’s auction site. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. susielindau says:

    I’m a collector too! My daughter and I have combed beaches on all of our family vacations. We have a standing joke. I will make something outrageous with our humongous seashell collection and give it to her for a wedding gift. Ha!
    I also am one who like to amass treasures, but suck at auctions. I went for years, but get too hyped up and have bought the wrong item on a number of occasions. I stick to garage sales instead.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The Cutter says:

    And then you discovered that ala Dexter, they were all mementos of a serial killer’s murders? Or have I been watching too much TV?

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Stacy says:

    I have been saying I was going to start doing this, but dammit I really am now. Thanks for the inspiration. I am really glad you saved that old school marm’s rocks!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elyse says:

    I love this idea. But I think that you should add your rocks to the ones you bought. Then the future owner will think that box is particularly lucky — see how long this person lived? Thank the rocks!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. mollystevens2015 says:

    I’m not a collector, but this is a sweet idea. So nice that you bought the box of rocks and fantasized about the stories behind them. Also very good for those of us who love your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this story and the sentiments you have shared. It makes me sad for a long life lost, forgotten. But also uplifted by the rescue you made.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Such a bittersweet post. My kids are always taking rocks or shells from our beach outings. We do save the little ones and filled up a big glass vase. Never thought of making note of location or what year, though. I loved your story about the Wales one. One of my favorite movies. (I do a pretty good Katherine Hepburn impression…)

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Carrie Rubin says:

    This is lovely, Peg. I love the idea of jotting down where each rock was from. What a nice way to preserve a memory. We don’t buy much for souvenirs. Instead we buy a fridge magnet from places we visit. But I really like the rock idea, and I love the stories you concoct from them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • pegoleg says:

      I like the fridge idea as well. Some people do shot glasses, and my sister collects postcards. It’s nice to put those souvenirs on display.

      Speaking of souvenirs, another very small collection I have is souvenir plastic shoes (only a couple inches long) with glitter and tiny seashells glued to them. Most are stamped “Florida” and seem 50s kitschy to me. They are really hard to find!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Aw Peg, what a great thing to do! The buying of the woman’s collection and then starting your own. So cool! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Bill the Praise and Worship Guy says:

    Lovely, Peg! Very touching. However, I would check to see if the brown rock she labeled as “Fido” really is a rock….

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I don’t feel like such a misfit anymore. I spent six years in the Coast Guard. A friend I worked with was transferred to an ice breaker. I saw him about a year later and he handed me a rock. He said it was from his expedition to Antarctica. Apparently, it’s a fairly common for people on ice breakers to bring rocks back as gifts. I held it in my hand and was astonished. “This thing used to sit on the ground in Antarctica!” I still have it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • pegoleg says:

      I think that’s cool! But write on it where you got it, from whom and when, and it will be a nifty paperweight/bit of history. It’s no longer some random rock that your kids will chuck a few minutes after you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    Tears in my eyes. This is so lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. franhunne4u says:

    I am sure your unknown stranger (a stranger is a friend we have not met yet) collector would love this.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Dana says:

    So cool! Brings back bittersweet memories for me. We had a collection of sea shells, abalone and shark’s teeth, from our many visits to Florida. My mom would get therapy at the Warm Mineral Springs, and then we’d go to The Fisherman’s Warf and the beach. Unfortunately, we lost it all in a sewage-flood. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  21. lexiemom says:

    I have a new take on the insult: “She’s dumber than a box of rocks.” Cause at least it would mean I’m well traveled.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Blogdramedy says:

    Walking a beach, picking up just one rock. That’s what I do. Only one.

    I have four white smooth egg-shaped stones I picked up walking beaches along the Adriatic Sea back in 2013. One is slight smaller than the next, and the next, and the next. They line the windowsill in my kitchen and every time I look at them…I Zen out.

    Off to watch “Bringing Up Baby.” Classic Kate. *grin*

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I have some old furniture in my bedroom. My wife and I bought the pieces in an antique store when we moved to this house and decided we were old enough to have bureaus. I have a similar relationship with the furniture, and I once wrote a little about one some stains on the chest of drawers. Wonderful as always, Peg-O.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Becky says:

    Beautiful post, beautiful idea Peg! Can’t wait to see your collection at Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Barb says:

    YES!!! YES!!! I also came upon a box of rocks…some of them gems…at an estate sale. Each one was carefully labeled and sitting in cotton, and I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that no one in the family wanted these memories which had obviously taken up care and time from their owner’s life. So now my own family has a box of rocks, and I have faith and no doubt, Peg, that just the right persons will someday have our boxes of rocks and be adding their own stories to them. Life is quirky and lovely isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • pegoleg says:

      Barb, I can’t believe you ran across the same thing. Maybe rock adoption is becoming a thing, hmm?

      Life IS quirky and lovely…when it’s not being horrible and foul.


  26. dorannrule says:

    This is one of the most beautiful stories I have read and I thank you for being a remarkable person to have invested a dollar in a box of memories to keep someone alive. I am reblogging this gem of a tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. What a great post, Peg! I love the idea of using something small from nature to inspire memories about your visit. I have a bowl of shells and rocks from various places I’ve been. It’s like all of the places of my past mingle together in that bowl.

    I also love that you create stories for people at the estate sales.I do things like that too. I think there might be a novelist lurking in you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m with you all the way on this one, Peg! I love rocks. They carry the energy of the place they “live” in, so when you pick one up from a place you visit, you take a bit of the energy of that place with you into your home. I have a collection of my special rocks–probably only special to me and that’s okay. The rocks and I know. What else matters, right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  29. aFrankAngle says:

    Cheers to your adoption!


  30. creativeboho says:

    Reblogged this on lawabidingbrunette and commented:
    Really a beautiful post, makes me want to go out and collect rocks from wherever I go!


  31. Memory adoption – I like that phrase. Estates sales are always a bit sad. I keep wondering if the “kids” will think in a few years “I wish I’d held on to that”. Sometimes the most unassuming items are the treasures because of their story.
    My mom collected rocks, but we never thought to write on them -that’s brilliant ( a to do from now on thing now) I shipped a bunch to my brother a few years ago as Mom had always said they were his…now he’s got to deal with them. HA
    Great post. You know, you could really create a cool book with the rocks – pictures, a map of her travels…you might even be able to locate info/pictures of her or the places at that time period…in you vast amount of spare time…but it would be cool right?


    • pegoleg says:

      That WOULD be cool! Unfortunately, she didn’t put a whole lot of detail on them, and some of the writing has worn off, especially on the shells. It’s interesting to me that most of the specimens she chose are WAY bigger than mine. You can tell hers were collected in the days before we were charged for every, single ounce of luggage.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. That’s lovely. I like collecting pretty rocks and shells when I go places too, I keep them in a big jar, but I’ve never thought to write where they’re from on them. I like ones that make me smile, this one was a particular favourite that I collected last year (if the link works) –

    It’s much nicer than buying tacky souvenirs isn’t it, an actual little piece of the place.


  33. I cannot decide which I love more, that you preserved that woman’s memory box or that your continued her habit. I think both are equally lovely.


  34. Anthony says:

    This is a beautiful post. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing it with us.


  35. Ninasusan says:

    I love the fact that you are keeping her memories alive with your own stories. You will never know but might be surprised how accurate you are! Great post!


  36. Pingback: Rocks Of Ages | The bee that hath honey in her mouth hath a sting in her tail.

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