Public Comment

Birthstone to Gravestone
and the stones in between.

By Madeline Smith Moore
Tuesday December 21, 2010 - 09:55:00 PM

[steppingstone |ˈstepi ng ˌstōn| noun

a raised stone used singly or in a series as a place on which to step when crossing a stream or muddy area. Oxford American Dictionaries]

Stepping stones originally referred to those stones that allowed one to go from the bank of a river to the far side, and to arrive safely—maybe getting just a little bit wet. Some of these stones are rocks; some are pebbles. Some are smooth and cherished, even polished and displayed on mantelpieces. Some are rough; scratch one’s bare feet. Sturdy shoes insure our safe traversal. But there they are and there they have been: stones taking us from the womb to the tomb. Some stones are seen very clearly looking back, but are rather fuzzy looking forward. What is the next stone? 

Of course, the first stone is the birth stone, smooth and gentle. Those astrologically inclined tend to place much emphasis on this. And some of us have trouble remembering what our birthstone is, never mind what it means. Mine is ruby. It’s red and it’s beautiful. I don ‘t know what it means. Red seems to suit me as I have a bright red personality--red as opposed to pink or maroon or some of the other more subtle reds. I am not subtle. While I do not necessarily shine brightly, I shine loudly. 

The second important and less smooth stone is education. School starts out gently and in most cases much anticipated. Everybody is on our side and helping us to be excited at the prospect. As the years progress, the terrain gets rougher, the hurdles increasingly higher and the rules harder to follow. The price to pay for breaking the rules also becomes more stringent. But on we go and, with hope for our futures, through to whatever end we determine suits us. Some of us stop after the twelfth grade. Some of us gird up, get thicker soles on our shoes, dig in our pitons and scale the crags and crevices to the ultimate peak—the doctorate.  

Somewhere in this occasionally fraught journey, possibly toward the end, maybe after, comes marriage. Marriage is a series of stepping stones. Some are pebbles, not insurmountable but large enough to irritate. In this case, we tend to try to ignore them. Sometimes we do; sometimes, much to our detriment, we hang on to them and, as the rolling stone, they gather no softening moss, but continue to nag and annoy. At times the marriage stone becomes a boulder and you either surmount or you don’t. Decisions have to be made. Sink or swim. What is the choice? And only you can make it. Because from here on in, the stones can either lead you safely over the precariously rushing stream or dunk you. You could drown thereby hastening the gravestone.  

The gravestone is arguably the one that remains forever. It doesn’t give particulars, things we would like to be remembered by, accomplishments we achieved, who we loved and who loved us. These facets of our life are stories to be told by those left behind. We can only hope they do their jobs well because we’ve left warmth in their hearts for us, not a mouthful of pebbles.