It’s Not a Disorder; It’s a Pine Cone

The Hugo pine cone stands guard on the mantle, day after day, year after year, listening to our whining and witnessing our shortcomings and asking itself, "They think they have problems? My mother was nearly beaten to death by a Category 4 hurricane."

Like one of my favorite bloggers, I rearrange furniture and call it “decorating.” I buy other people’s junk at garage sales. I see the beauty in something that is clearly … not beautiful. I buy things that are on sale because they are on sale. And I tap complete strangers on the shoulder, asking, “Hey, this is a good deal, isn’t it?” And then I can’t part with any of it. Ever. Which explains a lot about me and the condition of my house.

On my mantle sits what some might consider a prime example of this very disorder. It is a pine cone. A terrifically large pine cone with a weathered scrap of Christmas paper tied to it by equally faded green ribbon. And you are probably thinking, “That is so nice. One of her kids gave her a pine cone, and she put it above her fireplace, where it will stay until they’re not looking, and it will find its way into the trash heap.”

But you would be wrong. I have had this pine cone for 19 years. Longer than I’ve had any of those kids. It was a wedding present. And written inside the folded scrap of faded paper is this:

“This pine cone came from a tree that survived Hugo–make certain that your marriage survives many hurricanes.”

I’ll never know where Kathy Roberts really found this pine cone whose mother was struck by Hugo more than 20 years ago. Or where the very eloquent Kathy Roberts (who used phrases like “make certain”) even is right now. Along with the many pieces of valuable advice she once gave me (like never use blue ink — “it’s cheap looking”), this is one great gift. (Note: the ink on the makeshift card is clearly black.)

You cynical readers may be thinking–conjecturing among yourselves, even–that maybe Kathy Roberts just said this pine cone came from South Carolina and wanted to get out cheap. But I believe that the South Carolina native Kathy Roberts phoned home and asked someone to “go to the back yard and find a pine cone on the ground underneath that big tree that was almost destroyed by Hugo and ship it to me in Alabama pronto because this girl has a wedding shower smack dab in the middle of the Christmas season, and while you’re at it, go ahead and pick up a dozen or so and I’ll give them as Christmas gifts because times are tough.”

Besides, Kathy Roberts is the wife of an Episcopal rector and would never lie, so we know her legend is not a legend, but in fact a charming wish that has remained on exhibit in every house–let’s count, shall we? one, two, three, FOUR houses– we’ve lived in over the past 19 years. And that’s a heck of a lot longer than some wedding gifts lasted.

The brass butterfly sconces? Haven’t seen them–or their mothership Home Interior catalog–in years. Although they were lovely. And shiny.

The salad shooter? Didn’t make it to the first anniversary.

The peach-colored bath towels? Very useful and fashionable years ago, but long gone.

The very regal Hugo pine cone? It’s still doing its job.