April 20, 2017 in Baltimore

Sixty-seven years ago today, a baby boy with a full head of dark hair was born in San Diego.

Four years ago today, I was mourning the death of that baby who became a man who became my father.  It was his 63rd birthday. He’d been gone for 2 weeks.

Two years ago today, it was my first day at a new job at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Also two years ago today, the city and the nation discovered that a man had died the day before while in the back of a police transport vehicle.

Regular readers of the JMM blog may remember my writing about my dad in the early days of my employment here, and also my reflections on the days and months since the death of Freddie Gray.

It’s fascinating how today reverberates in so many ways for me. I’m also struck by how my time at JMM has coincided with the changes in the city and in me.

On my dad’s birthday, I find myself thinking about these two pillars of who I am, at this moment (Jewish Museum of Maryland employee and activist in the City of Baltimore) neither of which my dad knew about. Even though he’s been gone four years now, I still sometimes grab my phone to call him to tell him about something that happened. My dad was among the fairest men I ever knew. He believed in the fundamental good of human kind. He believed in the power of kindness. He was also a fan of stuff. He had many collections from figures of the Buddha to measuring tapes to unusual clocks.

A smiling buddha
This Buddha figurine lives in Tracie’s office

On my work-iversary, I find myself thinking about how my dad would’ve loved the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and how the Museum has altered the way I think about and remember my dad. I’ve become more keenly aware of the power of objects and artifacts to carry meaning. I keep a small Buddha figurine in my office. It is very like one that my dad had when I was a child. A chubby Hotei sits in his robes and cleans his right ear with a bit of reed. One eye closed in effort, he reminds me that even after Enlightenment, we all have bodies. I don’t know if that’s what it meant to my dad. It doesn’t really matter, because I can still hear his chuckle in my mind’s ear, when I look at it.

A selection of figurines from the JMM's 2000 "Tchotchkes" exhibit.
A selection of figurines from the JMM’s 2000 “Tchotchkes” exhibit.

The little fellow would be deemed worthless by many. In fact, it still bears a price tag–$5.00—on the base. But he is absolutely priceless to me. He reminds me of another time and place, and with his presence, he keeps my dad around for me. That’s what our collection is all about. That’s part of what I love about JMM. We are not a “Great Men of History” Museum. We’re collectors and preservers of the everyday objects and stories, the $5 figurines and all the millions they carry.

My dad would approve.

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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