Monday, November 7, 2016

Catholic Stanhope Crosses From a Jewish Friend

It was 1959.  My sister Laurie and I were going to celebrate our first Holy Communion.  We had the veils and dresses (itchy), and had enough Catechism points to qualify for our First Holy Communion at the Church of the Good Shepherd, In Pacifica, CA.   My mother even had professional portraits of us in our communion dresses; she also brought along our baby brother Joe, to have his portrait taken. Professional portraits were serious and rare back in those days, just for special occasions. Joe was thrown in for good measure, as my mom had to bring him along, anyway.

For Catholics, celebrating ones' First Holy Communion is one of the required rites-of-passage to being a good, practicing Catholic, along with baptism and confirmation).  Holy Communion is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, originating with Christ at the Last Supper.
We felt pretty important, for that short period of time.  What was even more special were the gifts from Armand Greenfield, our neighbor.  Armand was single man, who lived in the house catty-corner to us, on Inverness Drive.  

Armand was also Jewish. The significance of this would not be appreciated until I was an adult.  Before we went to church on that Communion Sunday, Armand gave Laurie and I each a Stanhope viewer Cross necklace, as a celebratory gift.  I was honored and touched that he (or anyone) would do this.

For those who do not know what a Stanhope viewer is, here's a short description:  
"Stanhopes or Stanho-scopes are optical devices that enable the viewing of microphotographs without using a microscope They were invented by René Dagron in 1857. Dagron bypassed the need for an expensive microscope to view the microscopic photographs by attaching the microphotograph at the end of a modified Stanhope lens. He called the devices bijoux photo-microscopiques or microscopic photo-jewelry."

The one that I was given was covered in colorful rhinestones, with the "Hail Mary" prayer  inside; Laurie's was a beautiful gold with white rhinestone cross with the Lord's Prayer, which you could read inside the peephole in the middle. 

I was extremely touched that, at 7 years of age, anyone would think of us this way.  We were not used to having that kind of attention, especially from a grown man who didn't want anything from us; he just wanted to give a gift, with no expectations or conditions.  We treasured our crosses; I wore mine to my First Holy Communion, feeling very elegant, indeed. 
Thinking back, I wonder what happened to those crosses, and to Armand Greenfield. So much has occurred in the 58 years since I celebrated my First Holy Communion.  But the memory of that gift is as sharp as the cut on those rhinestones, and the significance appreciated far more now than it was in 1959.

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