I think I've made an interesting correlation between memoir and research and how the 2 merge. I am such the "teacher thinker" that I believe I am always searching for creative ways to explain difficult concepts to my students. As I have been pondering some of my upcoming summer grad school questions regarding the empirical aspects in my dissertation, I find it confusing. So the other day, I had a revelation of sorts and here is what I wrote:
"I was thinking about my jewelry collection the other day. I love my jewelry. I consider it to be my art that I get to wear, my proverbial "artwears" for the world to see easily without having to enter my house or art studio to see my art collection that hangs on my walls. I have been collecting this wearable art for years now, starting on my 12th birthday. I can still recall purchasing my first ring at a “real” jewelry store, and learning the term “filigree”. My step grandmother, Esther, took me to the store and together, we picked out a dainty, 14K yellow gold (that was a REALLY big deal back then) filigree ring with a topaz stone in a beige brown tone, that I adored! In my young mind, it defined me, this ring with a historical definition and a stone that told the world that I was born in November. I loved that ring, maybe as much as I loved my Esther. In fact, when I think about that ring, I consider how it symbolizes my eternal, neverending love for this remarkable woman. I think about how she was the ultimate teacher, the teacher who could make a simple shopping experience a true learning experience that will forever be embedded on a young artist’s mind.
As I sit here today, as a 46 year old woman, a teacher, I slowly begin to count the jewelry that I am wearing. 39 pieces of jewelry are adorning my body at this moment! 39! From my stacks of rings, 4 rings on 2 fingers and a thumb ring that I put on during my sophomore year of high school and have yet to take off. Each ring has a significant meaning, each necklace has a deep, personal meaning. From the thumbprint of my deceased son and the small diamond cross from my best friend Dee who saved me on the day of his memorial service, to my wedding band and engagement ring that symbolized my husband, Chuck's commitment and love for me, to Croy’s medical bracelet that I took off of his little wrist as they wheeled him away to donate his organs, to my toe ring that my daughter Carson and I got together at the beach 4 years ago.
I have a multitude of silver bangle bracelets, one to document each of my trips to Mexico and St. Martin, my souvenirs, each with a memory that brings me joy. I have jewelry that has text inscribed in it, such as my ring that now sits in between my engagement ring and my wedding band that simply says, CROY CARSON, and my ring that states, PURSUE HAPPINESS, a gentle reminder to do just that. I have a bracelet that says, MAY YOUR CRAYONS NEVER MELT that sits right next to my classical Tiffany heart link bracelet given to me by my Chuck on our 5th wedding anniversary. I have a tiny diamond stud earring in my 5th earring piercing that is from my Mamaw, and 2 anklets that I started collecting a few Christmases ago selected by Carson. I could go on and on reflecting on the individual stories each piece of jewelry represents, in fact, I could reflect on the contents of my jewelry box and perhaps write my entire dissertation. These stories from each piece of precious jewelry take on a life of their own and I begin to understand the essence of how memoir meets research. As I reflect on my jewelry collection, the gold and silver metal that adorns my body, I become intrigued about the history of jewelry. I think about how Esther, who lived in Tucson and worked with Native American children, had a beautiful jewelry collection and I want to know more about her jewelry and the jewelry from her Navajo friends and the symbolic meanings behind the engraved silver and turquoise pieces that define a part of their culture. So I begin to research the history of jewelry.
And this is how it begins. My personal story and interests lead me to the scholarly information that is out there and I begin to better understand the relationship of how one's personal life story becomes a part of the research "data"." And in my case, I then begin to form and write new curricula around the merged personal story and scholarly info to inform a new genre of learner - it's a beautiful circle where the learning never ends.
And it all started with a simple story of an art teacher's jewelry collection.
From this short memoir, I am ready to begin a bit of historical research on jewelry to combine my story with that of the academic story! Who knew there was so much to learn by taking a moment to reflect on the obvious in our lives.