A number of years ago I read a book that mesmerized me. It wasn’t a steamy romance or a spine-tingling thriller. It was a novel set in Paris and chronicled the life of an upper-class family and their curmudgeon landlady. Soon I found myself telling everyone about this book. It’s title, “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” gave little hint about the plot yet it was the title that drew me in. I’ve never really thought much about hedgehogs prior to this novel, but afterwards, they fascinated me. Of course, the book had nothing to do with actual hedgehogs but rather, assessing characteristics of this prickly creature to a character in the novel. Renee, the short, squat, poor and uneducated concierge, is not an attractive woman and Paloma, a self-absorbed soon-to-be teen, refers to her as someone with all the “elegance of a hedgehog.” Renee later shows her young friend what true elegance is. Thinking about hedgehogs brought back childhood memories of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkles and of course, those poor hedgehogs used as croquet balls by the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Fortunately, hedgehogs are resilient, as was the book’s main character. And despite their prickly quills, they are also quite endearing.
Soon after reading the book I was in a gift shop and on a shelf were these tiny little hand-blown glass animals. One of them was a hedgehog. It was so small, I almost missed it. It was teeny, only three-quarters of an inch long, with little black eyes and nose and short red glass quills sticking out from its back. Of course, I bought it. How could I not?
I’m looking at it right now. I had to stop to find it. It’s usually perched on my windowsill by my writing area but it somehow moved over to where I keep my jewelry. I probably would have turned my room upside down if I hadn’t found it right away.
It travels, nestled in with all my writing gear, back and forth to Denver in the summer and to Florida in the winter. My hedgehog always sits near where I’m writing, perhaps as my muse, urging me on. I truly don’t know what the appeal is with this tiny glass critter but its appeal is tangible.
Maybe I sense its ability to withstand my skill at misplacing things. Or perhaps its transportability. It’s so small and could so easily be lost. Sometimes it does gets misplaced but miraculously, it reappears. Just as it did tonight. Once I found it in the back pocket of my jeans. Thankfully, I always check my pockets before tossing them into the washer. That was a close call.
I like to think this tiny glass animal serves to remind me to look beyond the surface, that beneath many a prickly exterior lies real elegance. My little hedgehog is a constant reminder of all this and I love it dearly.