Thursday, July 12, 2018

Small Treasures

As I search for a tablecloth to place on the table, I came across the small treasure of a handwoven cloth I sometimes drape at an angle across the kitchen table.  Carefully folded and placed at the bottom of the drawer, this cloth seldom is used for everyday use.  Needing to be carefully laundered so that the vibrant colors of blue, yellow, red, and orange remain as true as they were on the day I bought the cloth, it remains tucked away so that it won’t be ruined.  Don’t we all have items such as these?

Today, I need a touch of vibrancy in the kitchen.  I need something that makes me think of cultures that are not my own. I need something that reminds me of days gone by.  This tablecloth fits that need perfectly, besides, I decide, beautiful cloths are to used, not just tucked away in a drawer.

While the tablecloth is a treasure to me, it holds no true value to anyone else.  If a neighbor were to stop by, or a family member, the visitor might note the cloth and might even wonder why I had selected it for my table covering.  They might even ask where I got it, or maybe not.  They might think I picked it up one day when I was shopping at Pier One, or World Market.  

I doubt they would ever suspect that I bought this tablecloth in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the Spring of 2005, when I traveled to Oaxaca to earn University credit from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  The name of the course was Oaxaca, A Mexican Cultural Experience.  

It seems nearly impossible that it has been thirteen years since I had the amazing experience of traveling to Oaxaca with a wonderful group of teachers from throughout Colorado to learn the wealth of cultural aspects found in Oaxaca.  The class was taught by a Spanish teacher from Colorado Springs whom had spent time in Oaxaca and was familiar with the area and the people.  All of whom took the class were either Spanish teachers or teachers of linguistically diverse students.

As memories of that time came back to me when I spread the tablecloth on my table, soon I found myself revisiting the memories I made by looking at all the photos I took while I was there.  

Photos and mementos.  Those are the small treasures of life.  

I found I even still had the itinerary for the trip!  It is a good thing I have the itinerary  because otherwise, I probably would have already forgotten many of the details of where we went and what we saw.  The first day we were there, we visited the magnificent Montezuma cypress tree known as the El Arbol de Tule , the largest tree in the world.  I didn’t take a photo that captured the size of this tree because I didn’t have a camera that would do it justice.  Instead, I studied parts of the tree and photographed those parts.

We then toured the church nearby called, Santa Maria del Tule, 

Later, we went to an archeological site called Mitla.  When we were near this archeological site, we saw women draping weavings for sale over the fences made of cactus.

Before I went to Oaxaca, a dear friend had told me to make sure I purchased some of the hand woven cloths that I would find.  These cloths draped on a fence were the first I saw.  I did purchase a cloth here, but not the blue one I use as a table cloth.  I purchased that cloth when we did a guided tour of the city of Oaxaca.  In one the parks that we toured, there were many people demonstrating their weaving techniques.  Weaving is a major industry in Oaxaca.

I’ve always loved Mexico, but Oaxaca has a very special part in my heart when I think of Mexico.

This is a photo of Retired English Teacher before she retired!

 Memories flood back of the beautiful colors of the flowers, 

of the beautiful clothing the women wore,

of the colorfully painted buildings where I spent time in the plaza and on the roof top of the casa where we lived for our time in Oaxaca.

I remember the colorful kitchens where the food we ate was prepared, 

by woman grinding the corn used for our tortillas in ancient ways.

The yellows of lemons, the greens of limes added flavor and color to the blue corn tortilla chips that were graciously served to us in a restaurant that offered us a cool respite from the summer sun on the day when I bought this tablecloth.

All of these memories come flooding back to me when I spread this tablecloth across my kitchen table.  

This is not just any ordinary cloth.  It is one of my treasures.  

When I am gone and my children go through my things, will they place any value on this handwoven piece of cloth?  Will one of them think, “I’d like that because I could use it when I have friends over for margaritas and Mexican food.”  

Will they have any idea of the memories this cloth holds for me?  No.  I don’t think they will.  Why would they?  That is just how it is when others look at the small treasures of other people.  They don’t know the meaning that the owner of that small trinket, vase, necklace, ring, piece of cloth, or photograph attached to each sentimental item found throughout the house.  

Photographs, trinkets, pieces of cloth have value because the owner of that item attaches meaning and value to them.  

I treasure this cloth not simply because it is a beautiful colorful cloth.  I treasure it because it reminds me of another time in my life when I traveled to Mexico to be exposed to rich cultural experiences in a place rich with culture.  

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of a time when I was learning more about how to teach children from  linguistic and cultural backgrounds that were different from mine.  

I had a chance to visit a village school.  As I observed the children participate in opening exercises for the day, I reflected upon how one of those same children would respond to entering my classroom for the first time in the United States.

This tablecloth is just a material item.  On its own merit, it has little value except to add a bit of color to my table. It provides a vibrant background for me to study as I eat my breakfast.

This cloth was handwoven by a woman I never knew whom had incredible skill, great artistic ability, and was able to take colorful yarns and weave them into patterns and symbols that had meaning in her culture.   

Now, that weaving graces the table of  a woman from a completely different culture whom values the cloth as a treasure not just because of its beauty, but it represents honoring the culture and skill of the one whom created this household item.  

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of one of the classes that I took to earn University credit after I had earned my Master of Arts Degree in Second Language Learning.  This course, Oaxaca, A Mexican Cultural Experience,  taught me so much because I was able to gain new insight into just one the cultures that were represented in my classroom.

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me of the beauty I saw everyday in place I would never have visited if I had not earned an advanced degree and was not in a profession that required me to keep taking courses in my area of study during the years I was teaching.   

I treasure this cloth because it reminds me just how many wonderful experiences I have had the good fortune to have in my life.

Objects found within a home are seldom just objects.  
Usually such objects hold great meaning for the one to whom the object belongs.  

What special treasures do you have in your home that remind you of a special time in your life?