Earthworms’ Castings: Crows, Mom, Sparkle and Me

With Jean Ponzi

The nature of Crow — in America, Corvus brachyrhynchos – is a totem-in-common for my mother, Florence Ponzi, and me.

Crows are the largest group in the avian order of Passeriformes. All crows have a dense physique, strong wings and a powerful beak. I will nicely call our human family “sturdy.” However and wherever we get around, every Ponzi is a presence.

Crows are a most intelligent bird. They recognize themselves in a mirror (one of my favorite things). Intelligence is a trait every person in my family shares, that Mom prized highly and made much of demonstrating. In the 1940s when she was young, intelligence was not yet a thang you would want to be known for, but she persevered in the Geek Dept. When I grew up, being both woman and smart had just become an asset, with Wonky Cool not far behind.

Crows love shiny, sparkly things. Mom craved owning sparkly stuff. She also loved to know about it. She could tell you details about sparkle designers: Krementz, Sarah Coventry, Trafari, Eisenberg Ice.

When she first shopped for jewelry, Mom chose simple pieces: matching necklaces, bracelets and earrings in classic, understated designs. BUT her earliest jewel case also had a whole drawer devoted to rhinestones.

Our Grampa got Mom to pick out the jewelry gifts he gave to his sweetheart, her Mother. Gramma’s special favorites were a lifelong special secret between Mom and her Dad.
In the 1980s Mom started collecting pins: a “ruby” studded elephant, a glittering pink carnation, dragons, lizards, an emerald and turquoise enamel beetle, a frisking squirrel with an “amber” tail. She wore them! Every day one embellished her Pendleton suits.
She bought her first costume jewelry Christmas Tree in 1994, a rotund red-green-“diamond” Joan Rivers copy of a pin designed by Fabergé as a gift from Czar Nicholas II for Empress Alexandra. This pin remained her favorite, even when her collection of Christmas Trees filled several jewelry boxes.

How many drawers will a crow need for sparkles? I have part of one. Mom had . . .
And is there a difference in value between subtle designs and Big Honkers? “It depends,” Mom said, “on the collector’s taste. For me, the bigger and sparklier the better. But I always tried not to hang too many things on myself. I made rules.”


“For wearing jewelry, there’s the Count-To-Ten Rule. You have to count up every item you’re wearing: gloves, jacket, watch, blouse, hat, stockings, shoes. A sparkle counts as two. If you have on more than ten things total, take stuff off.

“Still,” she said “I’m tempted to clip everything on one jacket and see if I can still stand up.”

Savvy to their allure for collectors, she dug into the details of how the costume sparkles she loved were made.

“The cut of the stones,” Mom explained, “their shape, color, clarity, is just like real jewels. What kind of metal was used? Is it solid, well made? Stones can be prong-set or glued, as the style requires. Is a pin signed or not?”

When she eventually sold them all, Pin Money filled her sock drawer.
I am attracted to sparkle too, but I can appreciate and leave what she would take, admire and stow. My crow affinity is with these birds’ schmooze capacity.

Crows are intensely social creatures, clever opportunists. They thrive on human foibles.
Year after year, generations of crows use the same flight paths into urban turf. The heat sink of our built-up space keeps urban centers warmer than the outlying open places crows prefer for daytime doings. Flocks of crows – hundreds of birds – convene at dusk, wheeling and careening. Crow crowds chatter, preen, feed, fight and PAR-TAY into the night. The skinniest tree or a building’s eaves can become Club Crow, serving up human food trash and the chance to pick up a sparkle.

I am happy in the center or the edges of a crowd. Mom came to prefer sofa solitude.
I am way more reserved than Mom when it comes to wearing Baubles of Light. Yes, that blue rhinestone butterfly fits on my collar, and the scintillating snowflake on a vest lapel. But even on my most social days, I have to muster the chutzpah to sparkle.

Mother, Daughter: like Crows, energized by life’s diverse forms of Sparkle.

Jean Ponzi sparkles in conversation about All Things Green in her weekly Earthworms podcasts from KDHX, St. Louis Independent Media. Pick ‘em up at kdhx.org.