What you see above is a fish tank, but it’s not just any fish tank. It’s actually an old apothecary jar for which Steve’s mother macraméed that hanger more than 30 years ago, back when macramé was all the rage, and which has been hosting a fish ever since. If you look closely, you can see Tiny, our bumblebee cichlid, swimming at the top.

In the house in Arlington, Tiny and his cool house were seldom seen because they hung upstairs in the “private” part of the house–few guests ever went up there. In the new house down here, however, he’ll be on regular display, hung dramatically in the great room on a 30-foot chain from the vaulted ceiling. He’ll be right next to the fireplace, the first thing you see as you look straight ahead upon entering the front door.

One of the many wonderful people we’ve met through our home-building adventure here is a guy named Richard, who works as a handyman for Gary, our builder. He came here to the rental last summer to do some work on the floors, and the first thing he noticed was the fish tank. Turns out he loves pet fish, has had a sideline for years building unique wood stands for standard aquariums, and happens to have a larger apothecary jar (the one above is 5 gallons; his is 10) that he’s been wondering what to do with. At the time, he said he’d give the jar to us when we got settled into the new place, and there the matter lay.

Now Richard is the one putting the stain on all the oak woodwork in the new place, and we’ve caught up with him as we’re there painting while he does his staining work. Yesterday he mentioned our fish tank again, and was excited when we told him where it would hang in the great room. He told us he’d bring his 10-gallon jar to us whenever we were ready for it–and he also wants to give us some cichlids! (We discovered that Tiny doesn’t appreciate company in his 5-gallon quarters: he ate the roommate with whom he came to us within a day of their arrival. Maybe he’ll do better in larger accommodations.) These jars are not inexpensive and they are hard to find. This is a true gift, one of the many that have come to us unbidden in this new place.

So now Steve has another project on his list: replace the macramé hanger, which is starting to dry-rot and won’t hold a larger jar anyway. I tried macramé–it didn’t work for me. Steve enjoys doing it just because he likes it, and it’s also a way of honoring his mother. It’s wonderful to be able to surround yourself with things that are not only beautiful but have such great backstories. You don’t just admire them; you love them.