I remember back in the 80s, when I was a girl, my mother bought her first "real" pearl necklace. She was so excited. She was a homemaker for most of her life. She never had her own money, never had a job, never had a feeling of independence. She was always at home taking care of her children. When I turned 12, this all changed.
Her first foray back into the working world was in our small-town K-Mart. She was hired as a door greeter. I was mortified. Back in the 80s K-Mart was still in its prime, but it was very uncool for a pre-teen to shop or be seen there. She worked there for about six weeks before she moved on to a position at a bank as a CSR.
She made sure the position was part-time so she could be home for me when I got home from school. I remember she was so excited to finally be making her own money. Looking back, I don't know how she did it-not having her own pocket money, but that was how she grew up; women relied on the husband to take care of the financial aspects, while the wives took care of the kids. I can't imagine having to ask for money.
After a few months of working, a package arrived for her in the mail. She was so excited. She immediately opened it and showed it to me. It was a strand of pearls. She took them out of the box and put them on. She told me this was the first real pearl necklace that she had ever had. After that day, she wore them almost every day when she went to work.
The years went by, and my mother still wore that same necklace almost every day. Looking back, I think Friday was the only day she didn't wear them. Casual Fridays were starting to make and appearance in the working world back then, and she was in the generation that pearls were for dress up days only. When I went to have my high school senior pictures taken, my mother let me borrow that necklace to wear with the "formal" picture- you know, the one where the females wear the black drape. I didn't realize at the time that the necklace would hold a special place in my heart.
As she got older, and when she finally retired from working about 20 years later, she would still wear the necklace daily, even on casual days: obviously because she no longer dressed up for work. She was fond of floral t-shirts and denim pants, and she would always wear the necklace with her outfits. She wore it so often, you never really saw it on her because the necklace was part of her, it was her, it embodied her, classy and full of grace.
My mother passed away quite suddenly one Monday afternoon. My world was shattered, how was I going to go on without my beloved mother? It was such a shock to lose her, I couldn't even cry. I remember staring at the floor during her funeral. I didn't pay attention, my mind wandering, I was lost.
It was several weeks later when I had enough mental strength to start going through her things. When I was going through her dresser, I found her pearl necklace. I picked it up in my hands and started to cry. All the tears that I couldn't shed after her death came out with no stopping. I put the necklace on and wore it every day for the next year. If by some chance I did forget to put it on, I would even drive home and go back and get it. It was my shield, my safety net, it meant that she was with me.
I don't wear the necklace anymore. I keep it safely in my dresser. After all the years of use, it has become quite delicate. I am afraid of it breaking and losing the beloved pearls. Yes, it can be restrung, but it won't be the exact same necklace that was my mother's. I have bought several duplicates to replace it as I wear pearls every day to honor my mother.
I know she is smiling down at me.
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