My family, like most in southeastern Oklahoma, is one of memory and superstition. When your ethnic background is a conglomeration of Creole, Native American, Irish, and Pennsylvania Dutch, you're bound to have a few unusual superstitions. The Crown of Feathers is one that continues to amaze me.

Every year, my maternal grandmother's family has a huge reunion. Late at night, on the very last night of the reunion, Meme (as we call our grandma) pulls out a tattered old box full of tin photographs and birth certificates and whatnot. This is our family's heritage; we were too poor to have any "real" heirlooms, so what we have is a box of memory. We find undiscovered photographs and interesting documents every year, but we always come back to the crowns of feathers. There are two. One is a half an inch in diameter, and the other is about twice as big. They are made up entirely of down feathers of uniform size, all swirled into a perfect circle, all joined at the middle. Meme keeps them in tiny plastic baggies, and she won't let anyone else handle them.

When my grandmother was a child, her mother told her that when a person dies on a feather pillow and that person goes to Heaven, then the angels will leave a crown of feathers in the pillow. The older the person, the larger the crown. When someone in the family died, they would mark the pillow with an "X," so that when time came to clean out the old feathers, they'd know to look for the crown. Meme has seen five crowns of feathers in her lifetime: three from siblings, one from a grandparent, and one from an aunt. The 1/2 inch crown that we still have was found in the pillow her infant sister died upon, and the larger one in her teenage sister's pillow. She says that they never found crowns in the other pillows, only in the ones people died on.

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