Monday, June 18, 2012

Jewelry Stories

I went through a phase in college where I’d wear as many as eight bracelets on each wrist, usually beaded bracelets that would occasionally, and embarrassingly, fall apart during class, and go spilling across the floor. This was in part because I liked to sit and spin them in circles around my wrist, and partly because they were cheap beaded bracelets that weren’t meant to be tugged at, pulled at, and stretched the way I did.

The only time I managed to leave my bracelets the hell alone was the days I’d wear three of my mom’s beaded bracelets. They were purple and gold, something she’d bought on one of her “sister’s weeks” in Florida, an annual trip where she spent a week with my aunts, and from what I could tell, laughed a lot and told them way more information about me than I wanted anyone to know. These purple beaded bracelets were inexpensive too, but because they were my mother’s, and something I’d taken out of her jewelry box after she died, I treated them with better care than I would have otherwise. I wore them specifically on exam days, and would look down at my wrist whenever I was stuck on a question. I refused to leave my house and go to class until I had them on my right wrist, and the exam days I would forget them, I'd remember as soon as the test started and I'd start cursing myself and be convinced I wouldn't remember anything.

via [etymologie]

This was around the same time I never took off several turquoise rings, also scavenged from Mom’s jewelry box. The one I wore on my pinky was slightly too big, and over the course of college I lost it three times. Each time I was devastated, and reacted so dramatically that it was kind of scary, and absolutely ridiculous. Later, when I'd find it again, at the bottom of my closet, on a friend's floor, or wherever, I'd be giddy and act as if it was a sign: "It always comes back to me!" It was even more dramatic when I reminded myself that it was simply a silly turquoise ring that I had actually never even seen her wear. 

But it wasn’t about that. I had found the turquoise rings in Mom’s jewelry box the day after she died, and put them on my fingers. At the funeral home, when I couldn’t bear to look at my mother, who was no longer my mother at all, I’d look down at my hands and twist the rings. I thought of my mother’s hands, and the way they looked when she would clutch the church pew in front of her when we were singing hymns. And I twisted the rings around my fingers. Over and over again. 

A couple of years ago, for my brother Jay’s wedding, I decided to wear Mom’s wedding ring. I had never worn it before, partly because it was gold and didn’t match my turquoise, and partly because I was terrified of the guilt and grief I might feel, should I ever lose it. I kept looking down at my hands that day and seeing my mom’s hands instead.

I’ve worn the ring almost every day since. When I'm nervous or upset, I twist it around my finger, over and over again.When it's not on my finger I feel naked. I still look at my turquoise rings on my dresser, and enjoy the sight of them. Sometimes I wear them, even though they clash with the wedding ring.

Jewelry, to me, isn’t just an accessory. The jewelry I’m wearing is telling a story. Maybe no one other than me is interested, but I really don’t care. Maybe it’s part of the reason why I tattooed a book on my wrist. There’s a story there, if you care to hear it. I like to think other women feel the same way about the items they choose to put on their fingers, their wrists, or dangling from their ears or around their necks.

Today, I’m wearing my mother’s wedding ring, and a few other stories. On one wrist, a beautiful bracelet that was a birthday gift from my best friend, on the other, a turquoise bracelet that was a gift from my Aunt Linda, and a beaded bracelet I bought myself. Around my neck is a lightning bolt from Marco.

They might not all match. They might not even all make sense, worn together. But together, they piece together the makings of a story, and each one makes me smile for different reasons. Later, they might wait in a jewelry box to tell a story for someone else.

another piece found in Mom's jewelry boxes

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