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  • Writer's pictureJanet Federico

On Peridot, Schoolhouse Rock, & Redemption


I hated Peridot growing up. Despite it being my birthstone, I felt the watery green was an insult when compared to the majestic depth of emeralds. Every jewelry store further degraded it by labeling it “semi-precious” proving its inherent lack of worthiness. Feeling cheated at being stuck with such a mediocre birthstone, I rejected it wholly. It hit too close to home for a young girl who had been programmed from birth to believe in her inherent worthlessness. I refused to wear, or even acknowledge, this utterly lacking rock as my birthright. It felt too much like I was announcing to the world what I tried every day to hide.


Instead, I adopted emeralds. Whenever someone asked if they were my birthstone, I would never lie, I’d say, “I just like them.” No one ever probed too deeply. But the universe has a way of keeping Karma balanced. The one and only emerald I ever owned was given to me by my parents and it was obviously cracked and of poor quality. It felt like a joke being played on me. At some point, it fell off my hand. I took that as a sign and gave up colored stones altogether adopting pearls as my signature gem.


Enter Interplanet Janet. In 1978, Schoolhouse Rock released Interplanet Janet. From the age of five, I was called this relentlessly. I hated it. The bullies quickly picked this up and used it against me. I was much too young to know how to handle this situation productively. I fought them. I got into fights with anyone who dared use that moniker. Eventually, they mostly stopped (some would call me that through high school). I continued to hate it over the years.


Janet is not a ubiquitous name. Unlike the Ashleys, Jennifers, and Heathers that abound, there are not a lot of Janets out there; nor is it readily found in pop culture. So, when people used pop culture references for my name growing up it came down to slimy pick-up lines that were always a version of something like, “Three isn’t really company, but the two of us could make it work.” Or, anytime Rocky Horror Picture Show was playing, random classmates shouting at me in the hallways, “Janet, are you a slut?” or “Dammit Janet, let’s go screw!” (and yes, I still hate the Rocky Horror Picture Show for this particular torture). And, lastly, “Hey, Interplanet Janet! Are you a galaxy girl?”


By then, I’d been seriously punched in the face by a classmate when I was thirteen requiring a trip to the dentist and I didn’t fight boys anymore. So, I’d flip them off and keep going. It took thirty years and the book Jewels: A Secret History by Victoria Finlay for me to forgive Schoolhouse Rock.


Over the last decade, I have grown to love peridot. As I got older (and spent many years in therapy dealing with all my stuff), I found myself surprised again and again when I’d been drawn to a piece of jewelry only to find out it was peridot. The stone that had once seemed to pale in comparison to its fellow gemstones now seemed to stand out for its unique shade of green. I’m drawn to the yellow-green shades in my everyday life. Emeralds suddenly seemed too dark. The pale radiance of peridot looked like the sun reflected off a leaf. Recently, I decided to begin collecting heirloom pieces with peridot. So, when I bought Finlay’s book, the first chapter I read was, of course, “Peridot.”

Mydra Ring by German Kabirski
Mydra Ring by German Kabirski, my first purchase

Here are a few of the facts from the chapter that caught my attention:

  • It’s the only gemstone aside from diamonds to form below the crust.

  • It’s volcanic in that it takes magma to bring it to the surface.

  • Iron is an integral part of peridot’s chemical formula. (Being a former chemistry major, the geek in me loved this.)

  • Unlike beryls, corundums, and diamonds which can be lots of colors, peridot’s color is inherent to its chemical makeup. It’s only green.

After reading the chapter, I put the book away and sat sipping my morning coffee, wondering at the sense of familiarity I suddenly felt with this stone for which I’d held so much antagonism. Unable to put words to it, I went about my day. It was only as I lay down to bed that night that it hit me. The familiarity I felt was in the fact that where I had once felt that peridot was the physical manifestation of everything I had once despised in myself, I now saw that it was, in truth, representative of all that I had grown to appreciate and respect in myself.


I too am forged of deep heat and pressure. I have a core of iron. My life taught me that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. And, I too am WYSIWYG. My “color” doesn’t change. I work hard to ensure I walk my talk and that my word is my bond.

Lastly, Peridot did something I didn’t think possible. It redeemed Schoolhouse Rock. Reading Finlay’s book, I learned that peridot sometimes falls from space. Like it rains peridot! It’s also the first gemstone to have been discovered on another planet. NASA found a swath of Peridot on Mars! It turns out that I’m a galaxy girl after all.


 

Janet Federico, MBA, MFA is a licensed artist, award-winning author, and speaker from Washington, DC now based in the Midwest. Her art has been exhibited at the Wichita Art Museum, the Wilson K. Cadman Art Gallery, City Arts, and InterUrban Art House. Janet’s writing has been featured in Elephant Journal, Writer’s Digest, and The Mighty. Want more? Get Janet in your inbox.

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Finlay, Victoria. (2007). “Peridot.” Jewels: A Secret History. (Pgs. 160–186). USA: Random House

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