Every once in a while, when a family unites, something very special can occur. Out of nowhere an invisible emotion emerges from a seemingly mundane action. An object, maybe like a tiny earring, can open a door leading someone to the most precious memories. A casual task becomes an opportunity to share when in any other circumstance would seem awkward.
It was two days before Christmas. Family and friends were gathering at our house for cocktails and desserts. We hosted this event for the past 20 years and it has grown into quite a task. I was rushing around attending to last minute details when my daughter Kacey walked into the kitchen. She flew into town last night with her husband and daughter, my grandbaby, Abby. Kacey and I had not been close ever since I divorced my husband, her father, when she was in middle school. Kacey wanted to stay with her dad and moved in with him across town when she was twelve. After she graduated and married she moved out of state. This was the first time she agreed to stay with me over the Christmas holiday.
Apparently Kasey had forgotten to pack earrings to wear with her dress tonight. She asked me if I had a pair she could borrow. I have to admit that I was touched by the fact that she reached out to me for help. I dropped what I was doing in the kitchen and invited her to go through my jewelry box. We walked back to my bedroom and I pulled out my big patent leather case that I keep all my fun fashion jewelry pieces. I set it on the bed so all three of us; Kasey, baby Abby, and myself could cozy in and go through the box and find the perfect pair of earrings. Our guests were expected any minute but I didn’t want to rush this moment.
Kasey riffled through all the tangles of chains and beads to find a brown velvet pouch. She asked if she could open it. My heart jumped to my throat; “of course you can” I managed to whisper. She opened the pouch and pulled out my mother’s costume jewelry. Pieces I had not seen in years. Memories rushed into my mind causing tears to rush to my eyes. “What is it?” asked Kasey. I told her it was her Grandmothers’ jewelry.
I told her how I remembered myself as a little girl watching my mother sliding the bangles onto her arm proudly telling me that this was the same kind of bracelet worn by Betty Davis or Vivien Leigh in a Hollywood movie from the 1950’s. My mother was so glamorous and stylish in my young eyes. She would touch each piece and tell me about the designers; Dior, Haskell, Monet, Napier and which star wore a similar piece. She would tell me about Coco Chanel who designed my favorite piece, a gold necklace with faux pearls. Her favorite pieces were from Kenneth Jay Lane who created designs for Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Vreeland, and Audrey Hepburn.
My memories were interrupted by the doorbell, my guests were arriving. I started to head for the door when Kacey grabbed my arm and asked me to stay. “I want to hear more about grandma’s jewelry” she said, “I want to hear more about You”. I was so moved that my daughter after all these years want to know my story. So, I told her how after the war many families like my parents’ could not afford real diamonds and gold. Costume jewelry became the rage for woman like my mother who wanted to be fashionable. The story of fashion jewelry became my gateway to tell Kasey about how I grew up and what her grandparent’s life was like.
When my story was done we sat silently on the bed touching the beads, crystals, and charms. Even though guests were arriving we sat and admired every piece of my mother’s collection. Finally Kasey chose a pair of shiny Miriam Haskell earrings to wear for the night. I gathered up the remaining pieces and put them back into the brown velvet bag. We walked together down the hall and joined our friends and family. The next morning the earrings were sitting on my dresser.
One week later: Kasey and her family arrived back to their home in Colorado. Kasey began unpacking after the wonderful holiday she had experienced with her mother after all these years. In the top pocket of her suitcase was a pillow case with the words “For Abby” written on it in marker. Kasey reached into the case and pulled out a brown velvet bag.