There was never a quick word with my aunt, Elizabeth (Betty) Spoelstra. This, of course, was on account of her being a master at engaging. When I was with her, I felt like I was the most intelligent and gifted woman — she brought out the best of everyone she was with — and I never wanted our visits together to end. She was eccentric, engaging, and full of life even when she was full of death; her body inwardly decaying from cancer. Aunt Betty left behind a legacy of faith and joy and music, among other things, when she died 12 years ago. One of the things she left me in particular was a cabinet overflowing with kaleidoscopes. I had always admired her scopes when I visited her. I would take them out of her cabinet (there were over 60 of them) and go through them one by one, competely enraptured by the vision of light and colour that would scroll by in front of my peeping eye.
Shortly before she died, she told me she would bequeath the scopes to me with the instruction that I was to give them all away. So, one by one, I have been doing as she requested and gifting cousins on their wedding day, teachers on their retirement, and friends transitioning into new homes with kaleidoscopes from my aunt’s collection. One by one I have watched various scopes pass from my hand to the grateful receiever; scopes by Bennett, Chesnik, Karadimos, Knox, Paretti, Weeks, Van Cort, and many others.
Honestly, there is pain in the offering. But I know that’s a good thing. Gifts should cost us something if they are to be a true gift. And in case you’re wondering, the pain is not in parting with such costly collectibles. The pain is when I must take the scope in one hand and a cloth in the other, and carefully rub all of my aunt’s fingerprints off the scope before wrapping it in tissue and gently laying it into a giftbox. I’m not losing money or beautiful artistry. I’m losing another piece of that which remains of my aunt.
Today, only a few kaleidoscopes remain in the wood and glass display cabinet that Aunt Betty gave me, and I will continue to give them away as she requested. And as I hold her scopes in my hand and rub away the smudges and prints, I will remind myself of the gift I received that’s worth far more than her collection: The memory of a woman whose love and life shone brighter and more beautifully than any person I have ever had the privilege of knowing.