Mom was moved to an assisted living facility last year because her dementia was worsening and her ability to be pleasant to live-in help was non existent. I am in the process of selling our family home, and in doing so my brother and I are dividing the family treasures. I am going through her jewelry.
I remember, sitting on Mom’s bed as a young girl, watching her get ready to go out with my dad, putting on dresses that are now back in style, admiring her sartorial chicness. I would dream of being old enough to dress up…and stay out late.
As she accessorized she would tell me, “Someday this will be yours,” pointing to her mother’s diamond ring, or holding up the string of pearls she brought back from Japan while my she and my dad were stationed there. I couldn’t wait.
Now they are mine. It is a bittersweet acquisition.
As I don the pink and white, three tiered, strand of beads, that are so retro today, I feel as young as my mom was when she worn them in the early ’60s. When I slip on the large gold signet ring my uncle left her, I feel the weighty presence of the family legacy. As I admire the diamond sets from my grandmother, too small for any of my fingers, I wonder if I should have them reset into something contemporary, hesitant to disturb their antiquity but sad to leave them sitting in a drawer.
My uncle, a Col. in the Army, traveled all over the world. He returned home for visits, often gifting me with a doll from the foreign lands he visited. I looked forward to his visits and the dolls. When I reached adolescence, he switched it up. He started a gold charm bracelet for me, so instead of dolls he brought me charms from his travels. As a discerning 12-year-old I wondered what in the world was he thinking? The bracelet was designed with heavy links of solid 14-karat gold, not suited to my young wrist or adolescent sense of style. Besides, I had no place to wear it.
Mom decided it suited her wrist and her taste, so she began to wear it on her dressed-up evenings out. Even though I wasn’t consulted, I was willing to share, my silent generosity making me feel older. After wearing the bracelet several times she complained that one particular charm, a large swordfish, a token of my uncle’s catch on a deep sea fishing trip…glad he opted for a charm instead of stuffing and mounting the poor thing, was poking her with it’s nose…sword.
Her solution? She took it to the jewelers and had the nose cut off. (Her maxim, if it pokes you, cut it off…imagine how my dad felt.) I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe she did that. In todays market that nose is worth a small fortune.
Each time I wear the bracelet, resplendent with it’s swordless fish charm, appreciative of my uncles foresight in choosing a bracelet with my 55-year-old wrist in mind, instead of my 12-year-old wrist, I remember the argument my mom and I had when I discovered the maimed fish. I was appalled. I felt sorry for the butchered fish and became it’s advocate, ever so slightly too late, telling my mom she had no right. Mom didn’t see it that way.
All of this comes back to me as I unpack her jewelry boxes. I feel heart wrenched and soothed, both feelings jumbled together, like a mishmash of tangled necklaces, difficult to separate but doable with enough time and patience.
For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a rich, blue leather jewelry box. It is spectacular with it’s drawers, ring holders and travel jewelry box tucked within. I feel like a grown up each time I open it. He said I needed a special place to store my families treasures.
My mom’s story has a new home.
Originally printed in Patricia’s blog, www.beingboswell.com