Last week, I carried on a longstanding family tradition. Traditions are such an important thing, don’t you think? From such things are the rhythms of a family cemented together. Some come daily, like bedtime stories and morning snuggles. Others are a weekly or monthly affair, like Sunday dinners and Friday night movies. The best traditions are seasonal… and I’m not talking Christmas.
Some of our summer traditions are:
- lazy days at the park with a picnic lunch and a wagon full of toys
- stories read aloud under a tree
- swinging in the hammock
- running through sprinklers
- bedtime runs to Baskin & Robbins for ice cream in your pyjamas
- …and tumbling.
When I was a kid, every summer my mother would get out our rock tumbler and we would go on a hunt for suitable rocks to put in it. It was a noisy, industrial-looking beast of a machine, and it was amazing fun to put something in and get something totally different out. It was generally a summer activity, probably because the noise of rocks grinding against each other for days and days and days is something best left to the outdoors lest it drive your parents crazy.
I can remember long days of listening to the sound of the tumbler as it sat on a towel on the back deck in the shade of the plum trees and tumbled and tumbled and tumbled.
Rock tumbling is primarily a tactile adventure. Rocks are hard, and sharp, and pointy, and rough. Rolling a rock around in your hands is not always a pleasant affair. But after days and days in a tumbler, each rock takes on a very different characteristic. A single day with coarse grit knocks the sharp edges down a bit and fractures any rocks that have weak seams and are ready to split. Three or four days smooths them even more and knocks their size down to almost half. A week? If you can stand the rumble for an entire week, you’ll have the roundest little rocks just perfect for carrying around in your pocket.
But wait… we have more grit! Four days of a finer grit smooths out the bumps and crevices a bit. Four more days of an even finer grit gets the rocks soft and smooth to the touch. And if you have the patience for it, you can tumble them in a polishing grit for a few days and get the same sort of glossy, perfect semi-precious gems that get made into jewellery and keychains and other wonderful things.
But we didn’t do that.
No, sir, we did not do that.
You see, we hadn’t dragged out the rock tumbler since last year! A whole year went by with no tumbling! And when an entire year passes without the familiar rumble of the tumbler, you just might discover that your patience for tumbling is in short supply. And instead of tumbling rocks patiently for days at a time before switching to a finer grit, you just might sort of skip over the “wait a few days” step and merely give each stage a single day to do its magic.
Especially when there are bits of green jade in the tumbler’s bin and you really, really cannot possibly wait a single second more to see how it is turning out. Seeing as how your middle name is Jade, and you are eight years old and very impatient.
Not that we know any little girls like that around here.
Personally, I’m crushing on the tiger eye and have been carrying a piece around in my pocket ever since.
Moms with rocks in their pockets are another long-standing family tradition, you see.
Traditions are a good thing.