a November night
in 1993, my friend Trudy and I were zipping down a two-lane highway outside
Tyler, Texas when I shouted Stop! Turn around! Go back! Go
back! Trudy was always game for adventure. She made an
immediate u-turn. And then another, until we bounced up the dirt driveway
of a battered mobile home.
There, in the dark, strung across a clothesline,
were a bunch of lit-up plastic spheres. Each one blinking, dancing, whirling
to its own multi-colored rhythm. It looked like a formation of little
UFOs hovering over this empty piece of Texas.
A man with a beer came out to greet us. He proudly
said the "sparkleballs" were for sale.
He pulled one down, and up close, we could see it was nothing more
than a bunch of plastic cups and a string of Christmas lights. It was
hard to imagine such humble objects coming together to make something
so absolutely magical.
We bought three: one for me, one for Trudy, and one for our childhood
friend, Finley, who we were on our way to see in Dallas.
A few days later I flew home to Richmond VA clutching my "sparkleball"
as a precious carry-on. I told my children it was their gift, but really
it would always be mine.
All these years that old Sparkleball has
been my companion. Through divorce and a move from Virginia to North Carolina.
Across the country to San Diego where I lived for ten years. Remarried,
and living in Texas and then in Sonoma CA. And back again, to San Diego.
Like me, the Sparkleball is a little worse for wear. I've
mended it a jillion times, but the lights still work all these years later.
Eventually I taught myself how to make Sparkleballs. Friends say
I should start a business or charge for the instructions.
But every Christmas when I hang up my original Sparkleball and
plug it in, I'm reminded of that dark Texas night and my dear friend Trudy
who's gone now and how it's those little detours we take in life that
give the most joy. If I, an egghead serious negativizer, can get this
much pleasure from something so silly, then I guess I need to give it
away. This website lets me do that.
20 and going strong. Lit up, its age
vanishes, and it's as beautiful as ever.