In my grandfather's library was a cabinet of curiosities. Ancient fossils, translucent crystals, tiny skulls from voles and other creatures, a paper wasp's nest, a turtle shell, several birds' nests, a miniature of a long lost relative, and a painted egg. Nothing of the Faberge variety, but no less lovingly made and encased in a brass fitting to display the wondrous images painted on it.
"Is it a real egg?" we used to ask.
"No, it was carved out of wood and then painted," he said.
"Who made it?"
"A wise woman."
"Did you know her?"
A long pause, then... "Yes, I knew her well."
The crinkles that usually lit up his face when he laughed became slack and a sad look came over his face.
"I knew her back in Romania when I was still a young man. She was a midwife and used to paint eggs for the new mothers to ward off evil and bring luck to the children they bore.
"But this egg was special. It was for her sweetheart, to be given to him on their wedding day. The house she painted on the egg was the one they would share and the egg was to bring good fortune to them in their new life.
"I was a young teacher at the University of Bucharest then and I had gone out with friends to celebrate my new position at the University. It was April 15, 1944. As we walked down the street, we heard the sounds of planes. And then the bombing began.
"When it was over, the University was in ruins, including her small apartment nearby. It took two days for my friends and I to pull her from the rubble. We buried her in a small cemetery in her native village. Later I went back to the ruins of what had been her home and found the egg. I've had it ever since."
"But, Grandpa, why didn't her sweetheart ever get the egg?" we asked.
"He did," our grandfather said sadly, with a vacant look in his eyes. "He did."