Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Family Jewels

I recently gave my daughter my favorite bracelet.  An antique Navaho bracelet that had belonged to her great-grandmother, it seemed like the perfect gift for the day she received her doctorate.  To my surprise, although I've worn it frequently for over forty years, I haven't missed it all.  It's where it belongs and that's how it should be.
     When my mother moved to a smaller place and divested herself of things she wouldn't need, I was amazed at how eagerly she was giving away furniture, china, silver and all the other things she'd treasured for years.  I couldn't quite understand it then, but I'm getting there.
     Yesterday, in anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided to start getting the house in order, starting with the breakfront in the dining room.  I was just going to dust, but dusting wasn't enough, so all the glasses in the glassed in section had to be carefully washed and dried, by hand no less.  As I carefully took the glassware into the kitchen, I realized that I have acquired through the years the crystal of several women who are now gone.  Once these dust catchers were treasured by brides and later proudly displayed by the matrons those brides had become.  Later when widowhood arrived and the family house was sold, these things were handed down to the next in line.
     I realized with a start that I was thinking of them as dust catchers.  Yes, most of these glasses are lovely, but they've ceased to be treasures to me.  Still, I washed them carefully, dried them lovingly and put them back on the newly dusted shelves.
      I turned on the light at the top of the glassed cabinet and admired how beautiful it all looked, but I also started thinking about who I was going to give it to when the time comes, which it certainly will.

The following is an excerpt from my novel Careful Mistakes which has recently been re-issued as an e-book by Little, Brown UK.

Jilly is talking to her daughter Chloe as she prepares for an Easter celebration, two days after her father's funeral.

She came up behind me as I sat at the dressing table adjusting my hat.  She held the neck of her robe with one hand as she began poking through my tray of earrings.
     'Better get your clothes on, dear.  We need to leave in about fifteen minutes.'
     "I'm just looking for some pearls, I left mine at school.  All I have to do is toss on my dress.'  She held a pearl swirled with small diamonds, up to her ear.  'Can I wear these?'
     The earrings were a pair Rick had given me right after Chloe's birth.  Dainty and valuable, they had little appeal for me now.
     'I'd like for you to have them, I always meant to give them to you.'  I wanted her idea of her father to be valuable, sparkly.  His betrayal had been against me, not her.
     'Thank you, they're beautiful, but don't you have one of your rules about diamonds?'  She slipped them into her ears and admired the effect in the mirror.
     Chloe was referring to the fashion rules she felt I alone observed.  There were a goodly number of them: a woman over forty can't wear her hair below her shoulders, white shoes must never be worn before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, no white shoes in San Francisco or New York whatever the date, no bare shoulders on a girl under seventeen.
     'There was a rule about no diamonds before six o'clock or before the age of twenty-one.  It seems to be generally flouted.'  None of the usual stuff seemed to work these days.
     'All of your fashion rules are flouted, Mom.  I'd venture a guess you are the only one who even knows what they are anymore.'
     'That is the world's loss, daughter of mine.  I'm going to throw convention to the wind because I was given those earrings on the very best day of my life, the day you were born.  I remember telling your father I would give them to you some day.'  I smiled at the memory of the new family. my new family.  I'd loved the bastard so much.  I was so new in those days.  So grateful that a wonderful man could love me.  So relieved to get a second chance.
     'Thank you, I love them.  I'm going to keep them here, if that's all right.  Thing tend to walk in the dorms.'  She kissed my cheek.
     'I'll keep them for you.'
     She headed for the door.  'Thanks again for the earrings.'
     'Let's start a tradition, Chloe.  Give them to your daughter or granddaughter on her eighteenth Easter?'  I still intended to spend my dotage with grandchildren at my knee.
     'It might be a hundred years away, but I'll remember.'  As she left the room smiling I couldn't help wondering what else she might remember for a hundred years.