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.