Friday, January 04, 2013

Flash Friday # 24: The Earring



Lazette Gifford

I found my mother's lost earring in the car two days after I got back home.

We had spent almost all of the sweltering Sunday afternoon looking for it, tearing through the front seat and the back (though she had not gone anywhere near that area).  I had suffered in obedient, daughterly silence all the while my mother shook her head, made disparaging sounds and commented on how I should take better care of my car.

I remembered the same lines about my first bike -- and about my bedroom, my clothing, my hair . . . she had made this a running commentary about my life.  I remembered being sixteen -- half a lifetime ago -- and feeling the same dull dread of the lecture as she told me I was not careful enough, that I didn't appreciate what I had, and that I would never live up to my full potential with my attitude.

 On Tuesday I found the earring where I had asked her to check first, in the crease in the seat where she had been sitting.  I had not dared look there myself on Sunday, insulting her ability to do something so trivial for herself.  I knew what would happen and had kept my hands back.  We'd had that discussion in the past as well.

Holding the little cheap white and gold plastic in my hand, I tried to imagine what had been so important that we wasted half a day searching for this piece of crap.  I had offered to buy her another pair.  I would have bought her a gold pair or silver, diamond studded if need be -- any price to get her out of searching through my car and making this into another litany about my life.

She had disdained the offer.  They would not be her pair of earrings; as though this cheap bit of plastic had been born with her, something priceless and irreplaceable.

She had lost the earring on the way home from a journey to visit her parent's graves in northern New England, in some odd little town that had all but died and vanished.  I'd counted more dogs than people in Summerglen and weeds had grown up even around the old ma and pop grocery store I remembered as a child.  I hated the feel of everything there; small, dingy, and dying.

My mother had repeated all the stories about life during the Depression and how they had made everything count.  Not like life today where everything was cheap, throw away crap.  I had heard these stories every year on the trip we made.  I could have repeated them to her.

And now I held this cheap little earring that could have been replaced in a dollar store, and thought that she just didn't get it.  She didn't understand the world of today.  We didn't make the same attachments to crap because we could throw it away, and that meant nothing mattered.  This was what she had taught me, after all, with all her stories about everything they'd lost when the depression hit.  I had learned that lesson: want nothing, hold on to nothing, and make nothing important.

With the earring tight in my fingers, I marched up to my apartment.  Stacks of papers stood on my desk and I remember my mother glancing at them and shaking her head.  "What are you teaching children these days?" she'd said, as though scandalized by geography.

I grabbed the phone and dialed the number, the plastic of the earring biting into the palm of my hand.  One ring, another.

"Hey'low," she said, her voice as uncertain as always was when she picked up the phone.

"Hi mom.  I found your earring in the car."

"Oh!  Thank you!"  The sound of true pleasure stopped me from saying other things.  "I was so worried.  Your grandmother bought those earrings for me, you know. There at that little grocery store, the one all closed down now.  She so rarely bought me anything frivolous, but she thought I should have something... well, modern I suppose.  All the girls were wearing them. "

Words caught in my throat.  Anger bled out of my mind from one breath to the next.  I looked at the little gold and white plastic and nodded, my fingers curling to protect it.  "I'll bring the earring up to you next weekend, if you like."

"Oh no.  Don't do that.  You keep it there with you.  I'll give you the other one next time I'm in town.  I know they're not your style --"

"I think they're lovely," I said.  And I meant those words, holding this link between generations, this gift of the heart.

Her breath caught for a moment. 

And then we talked awhile about life, my work, and the changing world.  I think, finally, we both listened.


The End
818 Words

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