Here’s my story…
When I was eight years old, and in third grade, my science teacher was very strict, and I didn’t enjoy the class very much. So, when we started a chapter on rocks and minerals, my fascination was obvious to the teacher. I was listening, interacting, asking questions. She made surprised remarks on my report card like; “Terri really enjoyed the unit on rocks and minerals!”
One of my classmates had a grandfather that lived next door to her in town, and he was a rockhound. The class took a small field trip to his shed/workshop. Inside he had stones from all over the world! He told us all about his collection. Then he explained how he polished some of his rocks with the “tumble-polish” method. When we left, he let each of us choose a tumble polished stone to keep! I still have mine. That was it, I was hooked!
I went home and told my parents “I want to tumble rocks”. I was lucky they saw how enthused and excited I was, and they encouraged it. My Dad made me a deal; I could “earn” $5 for every “A” I got on my report cards, and I could spend it on rocks! From then on, I got straight “A”s, which meant $30, that’s a lot of money when you’re eight years old. My Dad found a rock shop in Westport called Gems and Geodes, with my first $30 I bought my very first (of many) professional grade 2 barrel Lortone tumbler for $29.99. I was so excited! Dad also got some rock catalogs, so with each report card I could choose to purchase rough stone by the pound, from the catalogs that we could polish, or I would go to the rock shop and buy new specimen pieces to add to my growing collection.
He also built us an entire workshop in the basement! We had the tumblers on one table, and he built a workbench the length of one wall. There were shelves above it to display my collection, and Dad took the tops of peanut butter jars and screwed them to the bottom of the shelves. We would put the finished, polished stones in the jars, and they would “hang” in plain sight.
Dad had to crush most of the rough stone with a hammer to be the right size for my tumbler barrels, I was only strong enough to do the softer materials. He taught me how to carefully measure out the right combination of silicone carbide abrasive grit and water to the amount of stone in the barrels. He showed me how to wash and seal the barrels, how to patiently check their progress through each step of the process, and what to do to lessen the noise of the tumblers. We spent many years in that basement , at Cisero and Deignan’s Rock Shop! They were the best times I spent with my Dad.
I got older, and moved out of my parents home, so I packed up my workshop and stored most of it in the basement. I still displayed my collection, and stayed interested, but stopped actively tumbling. I started a family, and had a job; life was good, but something was missing. Shortly after my second child was born, I really felt like I needed something for me. A conversation with a neighbor about her new agate slice wind chime brought it all back, and I realized what I was missing.
Now, just a little background; my Dad did not have a materialistic bone in his body. He didn’t really get attached to “things”. He believed if you didn’t use it for a week, it could be given away or thrown out- so naturally we were all always finding our things “missing”. So when I went back to my parents’ house and told them I wanted to start tumbling again, I thought maybe they still remembered the address of the rock shop, or did they know where to get those catalogs again? Dad took me and my mother down into the basement, and moved some things to get to a box. When he pulled both my old tumblers out of that box my mom and I had tears in our eyes. Dad looked at me and said “I knew you’d be back for these, you have rocks in your blood”. I still can’t find the words to tell anyone what that moment meant to me. The guy that NEVER held onto anything! There was nothing he could have ever done or said that would have showed me how much he cared more than that jester did.
It’s difficult to explain why we are drawn to certain things. Why these hobbies, or passions make us feel so happy inside. It could be the beauty of the gemstones, or the fact that they are a part of nature; something so incredible created in the earth, in the dirt! Nature is amazing. I am not sure why I feel like a child at Christmas, or a kid in a candy store every time I go to a gem show or rock shop. I can’t really explain to you why I have always felt such a strong connection to crystals and gemstones. But what I do know is that I am truly grateful to have something I am so passionate about, and so happy that I get to share that passion with you!