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  • The spring semester has let out at my university and I am free for the summer, which means as soon as I cleared the immediate items off my desk and went to a milonga, I drove to Virginia to visit my parents.

    Naturally I was not surprised to spot on my mother's bookshelf at her office a snow globe. If you were to name forty-seven objects of sentimental and unsentimental value, my mother would have forty-six of them. We never went to Mount Vernon as a family, so I asked her where she had gotten it. The possibilities are endless. She is an estate sale shopper, a flea market goer, a sixth generation daughter of a Virginia Century Farm, on which property many a toolbox and sewing chest have been preserved for decades.

    "The farm," she answered, which is her most frequent source of foreign objects. I prompted, "because we never went there...." She had been when she was a cheerleader, she said. Her sponsor, Mrs. Umberger, took them to Monticello and--trying to remember--thought they had also visited the grounds of Mount Vernon, and given her nature, she had picked it up as a gift for her mother.

    "It's dirty," I tell her, turning it upside down and letting the snow fall with particles of debris that had somehow infiltrated the glass. She was at work and I was interrupting her, but she was glad enough to look up from her paperwork. If at one point, it was more manageable, now it is obviously endless. A now-gray Sisyphus rolling another ream of applicants up an electronic hillside. Thirty years she has been at this labor of love, helping my father fulfill his dream of being his own boss by opening an insurance business.

    "It's old," she answered, "I'm old. If you live long enough, your stuff will be too." We laughed while the murky water swirled, like sweetness into sorrow.
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