“Don’t inhale,” M laughed. If I wasn’t so afraid of burning down the place or branding somebody with the volcanic lump at the end of three foot long pipe, I would have hammed it up for our good friends M and K. They stood at a safe distance outside the half door of the little studio. M & K had invited us to spend a day at Narragansett but the overcast weather lead the four of us to nearby Newport, Rhode Island’s shopping mecca. Sean and I followed our pals down Thames St. thinking K was looking for a particular antique shop she had heard about.
When we reached 688 Thames Street, I noticed the corner shop with the half door and the young guys inside tending to some sort of orange glowing furnace. Ah, a glassblowing shop! I quickly fast-forwarded to our pending trip to Venice where we might take a vaporetto to Murano where we’d see artisans from days of old blowing glass.
“You two are going to blow a glass ornament now,” K said calmly. Ha, ha! Wouldn’t that be a hoot! We followed K and M into the display side of the shop expecting to politely browse the hanging eye-candy and then move on down the street. Glass globes, paperweights, glass fish, tinkling with light captivated us.
“Go on, pick out your colors,” K said. A woman behind the counter beckoned us. “This is the couple who is celebrating their anniversary I called about,” K explained. What?! She is serious! Though our 25th was a little over a month away, I nodded and thanked the woman as she congratulated us.
“Pick out your colors and then we’ll go in the back,” the proprietor said. Sean and I looked at each other. Believing to be craft-challenged, Sean tried to deflect this task to me. “Oh, no. You have to do this with me!”
We both focused on the colors and options before us. Sean is a blue kinda guy and I am forever a purple passionate, Piscean. After we signed our life away that we would not hold the artisans accountable if we torched ourselves, we followed a 20 something guy into the bowels of the shop.
We were cautioned where to handle the long pole and not touch beyond the halfway point, lest we blister our hands and run screaming. The young man started the process by sticking the metal pole into a blistering orange hole in the wall that belched dry heat into the room. There must have been some kind of container inside because as he spun the pole it picked up a gob of clear molten glass. It reminded me of a carnival vender collecting spun sugar onto a cotton candy tube. He had Sean hold the stick over some sort of anvil and had Sean to apply pressure to square the blob. He then had Sean dip each side into trays of our colored speckles of blue and violet. The opaque and speckled dradle-looking square was inserted into a slightly cooler oven. Then it was my turn. The guy told me to blow into the end with a firm and steady flow. I did as was instructed—a flash to measured Lamaze breathing—and I concentrated as the blob rounded out slightly at the end. Back into the heat it went.
In a minute I was instructed to blow again, but lightly now, and the guy kept rotating the pole. A little awkward, but a good thing because sometimes I can’t walk and chew gum! After a few more passes from my lips to the kiln, I was instructed to lay the glowing ball into a trough and squeeze a scalpel thing to help form the neck of the ornament. In seconds the globe was sturdy glass, and no longer easily malleable. Later, the guy would add our 25th anniversary date, October 1, 2013.
The ornament had to set and cool for three days before it could be mailed home to us.
The whole process must have taken all of fifteen minutes. In that quarter hour, I realized this glassblowing mini-adventure could be a microcosmic comparison of my married life. On October 1, 2013, we will be married 25 years! Thanks be to God!
When we first started out, we were that blob of colorless love at the end of the pole. An amoeba of hot, molten passion! As time, life and trials rolled on, we eventually morphed into a circle with a seemingly indefinable beginning and end. Over the years we’ve swirled and whorled, burned, and hopefully refined with life challenges—miscarriage, a war, internal and external conflicts with family, careers, raising two children a burgled home, and a recent and horrific motorcycle accident. The heat, fire, pressure, shaping and purifying, has given us a brighter and more solid sheen than if we had never blended in the first place.
Our anniversary ornament needed three days to cool and set properly before it could be mailed to us. These days are also symbolic. Sometimes we’ve needed cooling and setting before we could move to a new place to once again reflect light and shine in our combined colors.
Like the blown glass ornament, our marriage needs to be handled with care and every once in a while calls for a little buffing to keep its shine!