Yes, this is a picture of a rock. But it is no ordinary rock. Okay, that’s not precisely true. It is a gray metamorphic rock roughly square in shape with numerous flecks of white and a white strip along the top. As rocks go, it probably couldn’t be more ordinary, more rocky in its soul. But, as with all things in this life, the importance and true meaning lies in the context. This is a pocket rock. It spent a quarter of a century riding around in my pants pocket. I have held it in my hand millions of times.
In 1980, my Great Grandma Hinckley died. That was also the year my folks had to move to Texas because of the transfer my Dad’s seedcorn company gave him to its cotton seed division. It was one year before I got my teaching degree. And it was the year they tore down the building where I went to school for grades 1 through 6. That summer, as I walked around the demolition site, I found the homely gray rock that was nearly as square as I was, and because I was already feeling homesick before I actually left home, I picked it up and stuck it in my pocket. It was a little square piece of home.
That rock went with me to college. It went with me to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida. It has been to Washington D.C. It has been in the depths of caves in Kentucky and Missouri and Texas. It has been high in the sky in my pocket in an airplane. It has been to beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the U.S. It has visited both Mexico and Canada. It his been to Las Vegas. And it even rode in the subways of New York City.
And possibly the most interesting part of this pocket rock’s career happened in Texas schools. It was with me in my pocket constantly from 1980 to 2004. I finally took it out of my pocket and placed it in an old cigar box that once belonged to my grandfather and I have kept keepsakes in since I was a kid.
And I have thought a lot about this ordinary rock that isn’t really ordinary on closer inspection. At one point or another I thought about using it as a skipping stone at both the Atlantic and the Pacific. In 2004 when I was considering the pocket watch broken by it and the car key accidentally bent against it, it almost wound up in Lake Superior. I put in my cigar box and it has remained exiled there since. Will I have it buried with me, in my pocket? No, probably not. My wife plans to have me cremated. Hopefully, though, not until I am already dead. This rock has pretty much been a symbol of my soul, travelling with me, teaching with me, jingling the pocket change when I walk… And it will continue to exist when the thinking and writing parts of Mickey are gone.
But even rocks are not immortal. Sometime in the future something will happen to it. It will end up someplace unexpected or changed by grinding, melting, or chemical reaction into some other form. But no matter what happens to it ultimately, the meaning of it, the context, the places it has been and the things that it has done will still be true, still have happened to it. And, ultimately, it will still be just like me.