A MacGuffin Named Jenny

The other day, during a brief exchange with my Starbucks barista, it came out that I am an antiques dealer, to which she replied "You know what they say about antiques dealers?"

Frankly, no. But was curious, so I played along, saying "What?", but all I was expecting to hear was something along the lines of "They're all hoarders." Much to my surprise the actual response was "They lost something precious in a past life, and are searching for it in this one."

Mind blown. As I stood there, waiting for my green tea latte, pondered what my MacGuffin could possibly be, taking a mental inventory of all the things I've let pass through my hands, and things in my house (as opposed to inventory in the store) that I'm particularly fond of, things that I really wouldn't part with. In a flash, I knew what it was.

"I already found it", I told her. She probably thought I was lying. But I'm pretty sure I have. Two years ago, in an online auction, I bought it for $26.99 (my bid was $400).

In short it's a miniature, hand carved marble gravestone, exactly what you'd expect an antique gravestone to look like, but a mere 7" tall. But the whole story goes much much deeper. You see, the gravestone is for a pet bird, named Jenny, who was 15 years old when she died, on June 30th, 1863.

Now it's quite rare to find a 153 year old artifact like this, but when you look at it in perspective, it becomes an exceptional relic. And the perspective to view it from is what was happening in 1863. In the middle of the Civil War, on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg, where around 50,000 men would lose their lives, the loss of Jenny so traumatized her owner(s) that they had someone carve a gravestone and then had a funeral for their cherished companion. Among the wholesale death and destruction, the division of a nation, this one act was important. 

And maybe that's why this little piece of marble is so important to me, and why, unlike nearly everything else, it's Not For Sale.

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