My mother collects elephants.
I wonder what the collective term is for elephants. Oh, yes. It’s “herd.”
Well, this isn’t really a herd, because these aren’t living elephants: they’re china and plastic and one is sparkly, and one is actually ebony, with the original ivory tusks removed. Just like in real life.
Some of them are white, some are black, and some are multicolored.
Some of them are large and some of them are tiny.
I thought she would stop collecting them at 11 elephants, or maybe at 19 or at 33. She’s now at 39 and counting.
“I’m sitting on one,” she said.
Actually she’s sitting on 42, if truth be known, because the Thai silk cushion she’s sitting on has one central elephant, on the front and on the back of the cushion, as well as a border of littler elephants.
I don’t remember when she started collecting elephants. Just all of a sudden, one day, she already had a serious collection of about five elephants. Quite big ones. The china ones that are multicolored and make marvelous plant stands.
I’ve asked her why she collects them; she says she doesn’t know. But the joy a new one gives her! Like a week or two ago, I joined her in a second-hand store, and, with a huge beam on her face, she said, “I found another elephant!”
What do elephants signify? According to one website (whats-your-sign.com), elephants symbolize reliability, dignity, power, royalty, and pride. In Christian symbolism, this fabulous mammal brings to mind temperance, patience, and chastity. Physically, elephants are known as determined and loyal animals. In dreams, elephants tell us that we can deal easily with all obstacles. My mother certainly has dealt with many obstacles in an easy way. Such as when she bought her current apartment. My husband, my sister, and I all took one look at the awful shape the apartment was in and barely bothered to describe it to her. But when she got out of hospital, she took one look, bought it, and brought in the renovators.
There’s that wonderful Hindu story of the committee of blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. And the collection of their disparate descriptions of each part of this mammoth animal became an analogy for Divine source and our knowledge of it.
Elephants are social animals who care deeply for each other and mourn the ones who die. It’s a matriarchal society: the males only show up when a female is in heat. My mother, my sister and I are the survivors in my birth family. Elephants also have long-living societies. My mother has outlived her father (of course in time, but also in years – he lived to the age of 87) and two husbands. I heard a few days ago that an aunt of mine also had a wonderful elephant collection; she outlived her first husband too.
According to Avia Venefica at whats-your-sign.com, elephants are the symbol for the root chakra, for being grounded on the Earth, whereas white elephants are the symbol for the throat chakra. Well, my mother is well grounded, and as an actress, a columnist, and a wonderful friend, she has made excellent use of her throat chakra energy.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what my mother’s reason is for collecting elephants. She does. And they give her pleasure. And how wonderful at her age that she can take up a new hobby. She’s 94.