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Monday, May 27, 2013

I Found My Lost Rosary

I wrote recently about shopping for a rosary in this blog post

I needed a new one because I lost the precious blue one that Anna Martinez had given me during Hurricane Sandy. 

I looked all over the apartment and could not find that blue, plastic rosary.

I gave up and ordered a new one from Amazon. 

I was just walking home this afternoon. I had been walking around Paterson feeling sorry for myself. I hate being alone on holidays. I hate being stuck in the city. I wish I had money and family and friends and I wish I could do what normal people do on holidays: barbecues, a trip to the beach. 

I was surrounded, as I always am in Paterson, by other people alone and stuck in the city, by other people with no money and no car and no barbecue. By people laughing and smiling and fighting and playing and being loud and making the best of everything. 

Just outside my apartment, I saw an older African American woman sitting on the sidewalk. She was rubbing her hands together in a worried gesture. A small, white, plastic crucifix dangled from her wrist. It drew my eye. I focused and saw what looked very much like the clear beaded, blue plastic rosary I had lost. 

My guess. I always keep it in my pocket when I walk. Chances are I reached for my hankie or my sunglasses and the rosary fell out. And this blessed woman found it and wrapped it three times round her wrist. 

I hope it is the rosary I lost. I loved "finding" it on her wrist. 


Here is the story of how Anna Martinez had given me that rosary, back during Hurricane Sandy and the long power outage:

Anna Martinez got her power back yesterday. The food in my freezer is largely still frozen. I have my ways! I keep blocks of ice in there. They are keeping the freezer food cold. I'm a survivalist at heart.

Walked over to Anna's, my backpack full of my freezer food to store with Anna. She lives only a couple of miles from me, but it's a very bad part of Paterson: boarded up factories as far as you can see, men camped in rubble.

We met and embraced. I immediately saw something on the shelf in Anna's tiny apartment. It was really beautiful. I wanted it. I wanted it right then and there. I could already feel this object in my pocket. I was shocked at myself. How could I feel so covetous about something that belongs to my friend? And, worse than covetous. I wanted to steal this object! Just slip it into my pocket! I was shocked at my reaction!

Anna and I sat and chatted. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we even drew a couple of tarot cards. If nothing else, this power outage got me to kick back and spend time with a friend, which I haven't done in months.

When it was time to go, Anna said, "Wait, there is something I want to give you." And she reached – yes – for the very object I lusted after the minute I entered her apartment! It was a sky blue rosary. Sky blue is my favorite color.

There was a story behind it. Anna is a storyteller, as well as a visual artist.

Anna was at a bus stop. A fellow traveler was speaking judgmentally about a woman who had urinated in public. Anna listened to this woman but grew impatient. At first Anna was harsh in judging this judgmental woman, but they talked more. Anna came to understand her better. As their conversation drew to a close, the woman handed Anna one sky blue rosary. Then, after some moments, she handed Anna another, saying, "This is for someone else. You can give it to them."


  1. Alexandra Tesluk Gibson:

    Your story reminds me of the time i visited Cuba and always had my rosary beads under my pillow. How disappointed I was to find it missing. I saw our maid a couple of days later and she was wearing it as a necklace (a pretty pink) ~ I smiled and kept walking. Rosaries were hard to come by in those early Cuban vacations!!

  2. My mother made plastic bead rosaries with the rosary makers at her church. She made rosaries for each of her grandchildren, black for the men and crystal for the women. Each girl that married one of her grandson's received a crystal rosary in a case for a wedding gift. My mom died in 2009 with some unfinished rosaries due to the onset of dementia. I still have all of her materials. Some day I hope to finish making those rosaries. I have pieces of her mother's rosary (from Poland) made with some kind of seed pod. The pods broke throughout the years. I really treasure that rosary.
    Kathy Cherwinski Long

  3. Although I cannot contribute much to a discussion about rosaries, your bittersweet post reminded me of something my grandmother did years ago.

    This was in July of 2001, right after I moved to Jerusalem to begin graduate school. My older sister flew out with me for a short visit, and my grandmother, seeing that four of her five grandchildren were in one place at the same time, decided that it was time to take us to Poland. She hadn’t been back since leaving in 1957, and although we feared that the trip would be one huge cliche, we feigned enthusiasm.

    A few days before the flight, my sister, cousins, and I helped my grandmother pack. Opening one of her suitcases—for a 10-day trip to Poland, she had packed two large suitcases—we discovered no fewer than 20 rosaries lying cheek by jowl with medication for cholesterol, back pain, blood pressure, etc. In response to our looks of disbelief, my grandmother informed us that she had not been back to Poland in nearly 50 years, that the names of streets had probably changed, that we would have to ask people for help, and that those people would know how to appreciate a rosary from the Holy Land.

    We were mortified: “You can’t do this to us. You just can’t. It’s condescending to hand out rosaries to people who may or may not be religious. You’ll get us lynched.” She, of course, ignored our pleading and proudly boasted about having bought the rosaries for a song from one of the souvenir shops in her neighborhood. (My grandmother lived, with my aunt, in Ein Karem, a lovely village in south Jerusalem to which she had moved in 1990 so that my grandfather could be closer to the Hadassah medical center; the village is home to several important churches, Christian holy sites, and a couple of unbelievably kitschy souvenir shops. It was at one of these shops that my grandmother bought her rosaries.)

    The first recipient of my grandmother’s generosity was the nice stewardess at LOT Airlines. But it was not until we arrived in Poland that my grandmother had her revenge on her know-it-all grandchildren. At least six women actually broke down and cried when my grandmother gave them a rosary. The first time this happened, my grandmother hugged the blubbering mess and shot us a shit-eating grin. We had to endure the same shit-eating grin in Warsaw, in Lodz, in Krakow, and in Zakopane.

    So that’s my rosary story.

    1. Liron, that is so wonderful. I enjoy reading you. Perhaps you'd like to do a guest blog post for this blog. I don't have many readers but that can be an advantage. Fewer weirdos than the other blog!

  4. I'm glad you liked it! A real character, my grandmother was. Always knew what people wanted, always found a way to get it for them. Hence the rosaries.

    A guest post? For this blog? I'm flattered. I still haven't managed (and probably never will manage)to organize my thoughts about her death, but there is something that might interest you.

    How can I contact you?