My friend Lauren has the most amazing business. She sells hearts. Yes, hearts, and her company is aptly called Heartsmith. On her website are tiny little lockets, big exotic lockets, sterling silver, gold plated, white gold, yellow gold, simple, encrusted with diamonds. Hearts for love, for romance, for family, for comfort, for remembering. Hearts that can be engraved and filled with pictures of loved ones, little ones, dear ones departed. I have bought some of these hearts for family and friends, and have been honored with a few that Lauren has given to me as gifts. I have a lovely one engraved with my grandson Nico’s name and birthday, the same day as mine. I gave one to my daughter Alex when her beloved cat Simon died. Lauren actually named one of the lockets after me! The Karel Amethyst locket and I gave one to each of my daughters and my granddaughter.
As you can probably imagine there are times of the year when Lauren is deluged with orders. Well, of course Valentines Day.. but also Christmas, Easter, wedding season (meaning June-ish,) and Mothers Day, which is approaching this week. So Lauren is taking orders on the phone, picking them up online, helping people with their choices and getting those “when can you get it here?” last minute orders. Knowing how busy she is this week, and having some unexpected time off myself, I offered to help her at her little shop/office where the magic all takes place. I was there for about 4 hours yesterday and it was quite an experience.
First, having worked in the health care field most of my adult life, it was wonderful to be in a place where the decisions were about what would just make someone happy and feel loved. I listened to Lauren as she talked on the phone to adult children and grandchildren, to husbands, boyfriends, and partners. She advised on the kind of locket, the design, what would engrave well, what lockets would hold enough pictures for all the children, and she said things like, “oh that’s lovely,” “i love you..all lower case,” “how thoughtful,” “that picture of your daughter is beautiful!” Here’s the thing..she wasn’t just selling pieces of jewelry, she was helping people express their love.
In the meantime, my tasks were not so easy for me. Being accustomed to writing reports and funding proposals, framing public health policy issues and advocacy, presenting at conferences with power points, I was all thumbs with slipping hearts into lovely little velvet pouches, confused by the various types of mailing packages, and a little challenged by the computerized packing and tracking program. But as the afternoon went on, I began to really feel accomplished. I even figured out how the make sure the pictures were inserted in each locket (they were…every one of them!) And as I mastered these tasks I was able to feel a part of a wonderful love aura that was streaming out from the little shop in Haworth, New Jersey to California and Puerto Rico, to Argentina, to Swansea Wales, to Texas, to New York, to Mothers.
During the afternoon, Lauren mentioned to me that she had had an order for about a hundred tiny little gold lockets from a government agency that had funded a young mothers’ parenting program. Rather than just giving these young women a certificate when they finished the classes they each received a little gold heart to remind them that the most important part of mothering, of good parenting is loving and being loved. These parenting training programs like one I had overseen in a previous job, are skill-building opportunities, sometimes required by child protective services for women to be able to regain custody of their children. There are usually sections of the curriculum devoted to early childhood development, to constructive (no hitting) discipline, stress reduction, nutrition, safety, like covering electrical outlets, holding hands when crossing the street, wearing bike helmets, making sure that cleaning solutions, pharmaceuticals, and sharp objects are out of the reach of small children. The importance of talking to kids about drug use and keeping that dialogue open. And as children become teenagers, having some of those very tough conversations about sex. The parenting programs are all about helping parents keep their kids safe and healthy, reducing parental stress, and forming the bonds between mothers and their children that nurture what contributes most to the health of mothers, the health of children…love. How brilliant for a project director to have decided to support that message by giving parenting class graduates little lockets.
As is evident in A Private Life in Public Health, my expertise has been in preventing child abuse, in helping to reduce maternal mortality, in child death review, in health care quality assurance, in promoting women’s empowerment. For an afternoon, in a cozy busy little shop I was able to be a part of a process that was just good for people’s hearts, including mine.
For a review of US government funded parenting demonstration programs
For a beautiful song Patty Griffin “Heavenly Day”