Friday, September 11, 2015

Roofus Rastus Johnson Brown

Once upon a time there was a girl from Brooklyn. Her parents, Ada and Avram,  had come to America from the old country, found each other, and settled into a life together on New York's East Side, selling eggs from a wooden cart. Shortly after she was born, Ada and Avram  moved their young family from the city to the fresh air of Brooklyn, settling in a brownstone near the  Brighton Beach boardwalk. Though Ada and Avram had travelled many miles from the countryside near Lviv, the girl from Brooklyn didn't travel much. Her entire family, for the most part, lived within blocks of the her home. She travelled through the books she read, and dreamed someday of a great adventure.

The family grew, adding a couple of brothers (one having been her father's oldest son, whose mother had died in the old country during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and was finally able to immigrate to live with his father and new mother), and a sister. The girl from Brooklyn blossomed. She had a joyful nature, an inquisitive quick mind, and the ability to give wholehearted attention in a conversation. She also was extremely teasable, and even in adulthood would sputter in protest when her younger brother sang "Rufus Rastas Johnson Brown, whatcha gonna do when the rent comes round" and called her Rufus, instead of her given name of Ruthe.

The girl from Brooklyn loved and was loved. In her twenty-first year, she wed. She still dreamed of travel, but she and her Eli were young, limited in funds, and it was wartime. Eventually, though, they were able to begin to take road trips to explore this beautiful country, as well as travel to move their own clan to new locations as Eli's studies and work required.

Looking back now, her journeys can be traced through the souvenirs she collected. Her charm bracelet gathered tokens from New York, Massachusetts, and other eastern seaboard states. Eventually, she added Wyoming to the chain. The bracelet also documents the three children Ruthe and Eli brought into this world, two boys and a girl (I am that girl, now grown, myself.)

At some point, the charm bracelet got full, but our Ruthe still wanted to get a token to commemorate  her travels. As a young girl, she'd been given a spoon from Rockaway Beach, which she treasured. She began to add small spoons as souvenirs for each state she visited. Soon she had spoons from coast to coast.

When the girl from Brooklyn, who had gone on to live in Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri, and South Carolina, left this life in 2009, she left behind many who loved her. She also left behind her spoon collection. Occasionally, I'd take the spoons from the box where they rested and remember our times and travels together. The collection was one of the things I kept when we downsized from the family home to our current abode. But what do you do with a collection of state spoons besides dust them?

It's no secret that I have a love of art, particularly the vibrant artists that we have come to know here in Charleston. Last year, we first saw the wonderful works of an incredibly talented and imaginative metal artist here in Charleston. Since then, we've had the good fortune to become friends with him, and marvel at the works, large and small that he creates. But when I saw Matt Wilson's (aka Airtight Artwork) silverware metal sculptures, I knew what had to happen with my mother's spoon collection.

So far, only one little guy has been created -- the smallest bird Matt has yet done. Its tail feathers are the spoons of South Carolina and Colorado, which makes me smile for many reasons. And even more thrilling for me was that I had the opportunity to add my own touch into this little bird, and will be collaborating with Matt on some future projects. This one, however, stays here with me. I've named him Rufus, in honor of that old song that my uncle used to sing to torment his big sister.


  1. I love it! How creative! What a special treasure! I am eager to see what happens to Ruthe's other spoons; their adventure is not over!

  2. Wonderful! The bird-and-egg is absolutely charming, and I love the re-purposing of those souvenirs.