Friday, November 11, 2011


Many, many years ago there was a woman who wanted to be more important in my life than I wanted to be in hers. An occasion came, perhaps my birthday, and she handed me a gift. It was a jewelry box and I was quietly excited. As a girl of 19 or 20, I knew it would be some piece of real jewelry in a collection that still consisted mainly of embroidery floss or fimo clay or apple seeds or leather cords.

I found a string of pearls inside and for a girl who dreamed in neon, their plain white disappointed me. At that age I would have wanted blue topaz and amythest and ruby and anything the radiated like stained glass. I knew nothing about jewelry or almost any topic related to disposable income, but I knew that such a rare moment, one in which someone bought me real jewelry, felt like a bust with those globs of congealed animal sweat.

My disappointment must not have been well-hidden, because the woman asked if I was disappointed. "No, of course not," I feigned.

"Every woman needs a string of pearls," she replied.

That's how the world worked in her line of vision: she had opinions and pushed everyone to live by them. It's a lot of why she's no longer at all important in my life. I don't have her anymore but I still have those pearls.

I didn't really appreciate them for another five or so years, as I found myself going to dozens of post-college and -graduate-school weddings. And then I wore them to funerals. They're no longer my only elegant jewelry, but they do always stand in steady rotation, giving my outfit a polished, clean and somewhat formal look.

I wore them recently to a funeral. I dressed and came downstairs and prepared to leave. My oldest child loves my pearls. She rolled them delicately between her fingers and told me I look fancy, which in her vernacular is a compliment of the highest order.

But I don't think she's ever seen my puca shells.
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