The final scene in “Jonas,” which is now archived at Five Chapters, takes place at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which houses the largest collection of Fabergé eggs outside of Russia. In 1996, the museum hosted the combined exhibits “Fabergé in America” and “The Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Fabergé.” I remember going to the exhibit with my mother and seeing all the finely dressed old ladies standing in the long, long line. The exhibit included more than 400 objects, but it the main attraction was the eggs, ornate sculptures that opened to reveal a surprise hidden inside–a toy or a bird or a human figure.
I remembered this visit when I was first drafting “Jonas” in the spectactular Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library. I’d taken out a book on Fabergé and was thinking about the way we all wanted to see and understand the workings of the eggs, and how impressed we were by the great amount of time it took to create them.
In “Jonas,” Melinda, a high school cheerleading coach who is struggling with the changes in her family, is at first drawn to the large pedestal eggs, which remind her of trophies, but soon gravitates to the smaller eggs with their intricate surprises:
It’s the idea of the surprise that finally comforts Melinda–the ability, after many years, to be caught off-guard by someone you thought you knew very well, the chance that your own life might also open up.