song du jour: The Duke, Dave Brubeck

mood: wired

A Jazzy Reunion

When people ask me how I became interested in metalsmithing, I have to confess that it first started with a Milton Bradley game. Undoubtedly, I've blogged this story before, but it's the time of year for reflection. Tonight, after telling it so many times, I was finally able to tell the mother (and probably at that time the bank roll) of the man, who made it all possible.

Before I was born and well into my childhood, my parents gave music lessons. My mom would come home from college, teach piano most days (on my grand grand) and then frantically cook dinner to be consumed at 5pm after my father came home from classes and before he took off to play old standards for the shee shee dinner crowds. By the time I came along, mom had cut it down to 2 students, and eventually my father, who for a while moved on to bigger and better, consented to give these 2 students organ lessons as well.

While they took their lessons, I would take off with great glee down the front sidewalk and jump into the car of the mom of whichever student was in the house. These were COOL moms and their kids were the COOL teenagers to whom I looked up in complete adoration. The times that our families got together were some of my happiest early childhood memories (I'm the freak, who remembers her first birthday.) with so much music and laughter. I remember how sad I felt when those kids learned to drive, and their mothers no longer brought them, but then those became the moments that Brubeck compositions went live in my house, and the only real downside was when my mom would make them play the same sections over and over, and I just wanted the songs to go on.

The Christmas I was 5, Roddy, who took great delight in bringing the daughter of his mentors the perfect gifts to make her parents' eyes roll as hard as possible, came in with the most bizarre board game. It was by Milton Bradley, apparently a bit of a flop since no one else I knew ever had one, but quite a collector's item now on ebay. Called 'Voice of the Mummy,' it consisted of a styrofoam step pyramid with 2 male and 2 female Egyptologists in khakis and pith helmets that players moved around the board, collecting green plastic gems, and occasionally having to follow the directions of The Mummy, a plastic King Tut like sarcophagus with a tiny record player inside. It would intimidatingly belt out in a menacing voice, "Go back 2 spaces!" or "Move down one step!" Though the record player was damaged by battery acid, I've still got the game and hope one day to restore it to its former glory.

Now being an only child, I played all 4 Egyptologists myself for hours on end, and I stared obsessively at the amazingly high quality reproductions of ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and artifacts that covered the board and the insert tab A in slot B boxes used to store the dug up booty. The wave of Tutmania in the 70's had not yet hit the U.S., and in my strange and somewhat sheltered world, I had never seen ANYTHING like this iconography. Later on Tut hit the States and my great uncle, who had a passion for books and a knack for insisting on sending people ones in which they would have little or no interest, sent my mother a paperback of Carter's account of the excavation of Tut's tomb that I devoured at a geekily early age, but as most of you know, it was that initial love of ancient Egyptian art that made me want to become a metalsmith, and as fewer of you know, an obsession, which lead me to Cairo, where I first met Skyler's father.

Tonight, after more than 10 years of my mom and me saying we really need to get together with this clan, we made a short trip north and had dinner with Evelyn, Ann, and Janna, and I was able to tell the story of how much Evelyn's son's gift had impacted the course of my life. It was such a blast seeing them again. They are all exactly as I remember them: warm, fun, and so very genuine. Skyler, as always, provided much of the entertainment and is still reeling from the concept that there was life before he arrived and that these people knew me when I was younger than he is. Good times, good music, good people. Achievement and enlightenment are all well and good, but give me the former any day.


Anonymous said...

Love your blog. Thought I'd catch up on your work since I missed talking with you. Wow! Just gorgeous!I remember your talking about Voice of the Mummy when we were 7 y/o! You can have the voice box repaired through this company - http://www.vintagegamestore.com/ for around $25. My favorite game was Which Witch. Still love it! Something about the 3-d and the little metal ball! Hope to talk with you soon!
Cheri H

victoria said...


SO GLAD to hear from you! Got your message last week, and haven't had a chance to call you back at a sane enough hour. Thanks for the info, and glad you approve of my usual diatribe gone written. Can't remember playing Which Witch. Sounds like Moustrap, one of my other favs.

Email me so I can at least have your address in the meantime. (Lost everything in a lightening hit last July.) victoria@victorialansford.com

Love to you, Dick & the munchkins,