Friday, August 1, 2014

Tumble For Me

I had seen before and after pictures on the boxes. You could have a sapphire or pink quartz; from grey and dull to shiny and ka-chiiiing in seconds. From the first time that I saw a commercial of children gathered in a circle, amid sounds of ooooh and ahhhh, I wanted and hoped for a rock tumbler. To make money by picking up rocks from a casual glance down on the ground and bringing them home to my rock tumbler -- what could be better than profitable fun??

I wanted a rock tumbler both for my own personal jewelry collection as well as a way of becoming the neighborhood jeweler. But despite the yearly appearance of this requested item on my Christmas, birthday, communion and special occasion most wanted gift lists,  I never did receive one. Not even the inferior RoseArt $12.99 model. (you say affordable, I say inferior)

Two of my three sons escaped my gem fever, but this June, my youngest began talking Rock to me. My eyebrows arched with cautious zeal. Did he mention garden stones? My breaths quickened when on a rainy afternoon he asked if we could visit a gem shop.

Oh, we will, I thought. And I’ll show you gems that will make you start shopping for colleges offering degrees in rockology.

We found a rock shop that was mere miles away. Once there, we opened drawer upon drawer, and the smell of dusty collections filled the air. In a corner, scattered among loose unmatched pebbles and stones, were dollar grab bags. We filled our arms with dollar grab bags because this was all potential money in the bank, or at least around my neck. Ye Olde Gem Shoppe, so full of “polishable” rocks that where my son saw adventures in discovery, I envisioned a pendant for every occasion. “What’s this?” "What's that one?" "Does this one polish nicely?" We wanted and needed to know.

"Those are rocks you tumble," answered the clerk on duty.

"How long do we polish them?"

"'till they’re polished," he said.

"How do you know which ones to pick out?"

"Whatever you think, sometimes, maybe, there's some gems in there."

“So, are you saying that any of these rocks in here can be polished and it will be shiny?”

“Yup. Just gotta polish them.”

"And did you say maybe gems?"

"It's happened."

“Do you sell rock polishers here?”

“Top shelf. To your right. What size?”

“What do you mean size? Don't we just buy one?"

“Different sizes -- small ones are $200. Drums are $85. Want it packed up with the $3 bags of rocks?”

“Oh. $285?  Just these small bags, then. Not really serious. Yet.”

We spend $29.10 and leave. My son tells me it’s too bad we can’t afford the big rock tumblers. But I have an idea. We can still get a rock tumbler. The $29.99 model deluxe from my youth one that is now $39.99 at the craft store and I HAVE A COUPON.

We run our quick errand and once back home, we set our Craft Store Tumbler on the kitchen table. We prepare to dump our rocks into the barrel. Plugging in what looks like a thermos from the atomic 1950′s, we notice that the dial panel is notched for four settings:

-Week 1.
-Week 2.
-Week 3.
-Week 4.

We look at each other, this must be a manufacturer error. Where these tumblers are made, in Ixonia, the word *week* must mean *hour.* Then my son reads the kit’s instructions, and it's spelled out:  Tumble for FOUR WEEKS.

We are to tumble for a lunar cycle.

A month? A month of a constantly plugged-in rock tumbler that is... constantly tumbling? This can't be right.

Reading further, we also need FOUR kinds of sand. In grades of a. ground b. fine c. finer and d. finest. You take the stones out after every week and add new sand, advancing up a grade. I swear this was never even hinted at in the rock party commercials of my youth.
The way this rock tumbles, is that besides a $600 electric bill and needing “special” sand, when we push Week 1 -- which we do, because we now own a rock tumbler -- the tumbler sounds like lilliputians are putting in a new road in our kitchen.

In a world where everything gets put out on the internet, how did this gem (pun intended) of parental caveat not make it out there? Sand. Electricity. FOR FOUR WEEKS. I mean, everyone waves their hands in the air over getting stiffed one French fry short at McDonald's, but no one thought to shout it out that for your kid to make a rock it costs you time, money, and more than some ten dollar bills. And unless you can get used to The Borrowers parking their cement mixer on your kitchen table for the next month, you might lose your mind.

I see now that the laughter so temptingly sold to us in the rock tumbler commercials was actually hyena like delirium from months of hearing scrape - bang - clunk -scrape - bang - clunk for the duration of 28 days. And I get it, from now on, I'll happily pay the jeweler whatever they want for their polished gems.

They've earned it.

scrape - bang - clunk - scrape - bang- clunk
we need some more sand, ma!
scrape - bang - clunk - scrape - bang - clunk
Dang, electricity went out again...

* * *


  1. It is 3:45 in the morning and my judgement is so poor after sitting here awake for 2 hours in a hotel room while the family sleeps, that this STILL sounds like awesome fun! hee hee hee

  2. oh my....sounds like....a night least the noise...
    and the power bill....for a might, be. a. gem. in there....i hope you get a gem
    so you can pack it up and put it away...haha

  3. I had no idea, Alexandra. Thanks for the warning - you've provided us all a service.

  4. No wonder our rocks never turned into jewels, we never had four sands and tumbled for four weeks. They all still looked like rocks after a week.

  5. This reminds me of the time I made a copper chainmaille bracelet and wanted it to be tarnished right away. The handmade jewelry shop people wanted to sell me some of their mysterious stinky acid. Rock tumblers are really cool but I can't imagine listening to one for a whole month!

  6. Plus it takes 30 million years. !!!

  7. Andrea, I finally hid it in the BACK ROOM, surrounded by sound dampening towels and the grrr crunch grrr crunch DROVE ME CRAZY.



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