Growing up, I learned at an early age, that in my family, diamonds equaled love. And the bigger the diamond equaled more love. I think this is an Italian thing, at least that is what I assume. I remember someone telling me that Italian women give their daughters jewelry. It's not right, equating jewels to love. But, the sentiments and stories that go with the jewels that were passed between the women of my family are chock full of love. I first learned of family jewels as a little girl, when my Grandmom would lavish "real gold" gifts to me.
My first gold gift was a charm bracelet with a gold typewriter charm attached to it. I was about 10 or 12 years old when she gave the bracelet to me. It was back in the 60's when growing up to become a secretary was an honorable goal for a woman. She herself was a team leader at Bell Tel back in those days. You know, the days when the operators would pull the cords and connect you via a switchboard to the person you were calling? Yeah, back in the old days. She envisioned a better job for me and encouraged me to go into the secretarial field. The gold charm bracelet was given to me as a vision for my future, to encourage me to attain my goals.
When Grandmom got sick, she ordered herself the diamond ring she always wanted. It was a huge diamond. I wish I had a photo of it to share with you, but I don't. I really wish I had a photo of her wearing the ring when it came ! She was so excited. While she was in her early stages of dying from brain cancer, she started making a list of who gets what jewelry when she passed away. I don't remember specifics, but I do remember there being a disagreement over that diamond between my mom and my aunt. The fight didn't last long and my aunt inherited the big diamond. I often scolded Aunt Joyce for wearing that ring dirty. But I guess she could have blinded someone if she kept it shiny. My mom got the "small" diamond.
My Aunt Joyce's birthday was yesterday, she would have been 83. I know this because Facebook started telling me her birthday was coming up at the beginning of August. Oh how I wish Facebook would have been around to remind me daily that her birthday was coming while she was alive. I sent many belated "I love you" birthday cards to her. Cards were really important to her too. As they are to my mother. Which reminds me, I better buy anniversary and birthday cards for the cruise! And a little something to give Mom. I'm getting off topic, but I am thinking a lot about Aunt Joyce the last few weeks.
I pulled out her jewelry. She gave me quite a few things while she was alive, and when she passed, my Uncle Richard gave me a little gold pinky ring (well it's a pinky ring for me because her fingers were so tiny and mine are so huge). He told me it was her favorite ring, and it was also the first wedding ring he gave her. It's gorgeous, but I am afraid to wear it. My pinky doesn't have the knuckledge to keep a ring on, so I know I would lose it. It is much safer in the jewelry box.
There is a necklace story in my family. Oh this necklace! My great Aunt and Uncle Pierce had an antiques business in Trappe, PA, right off of 422. Mom and Aunt Lilia were very close and we visited them often. I didn't like it much there, their house was full of old smells of other peoples stuff mixed with dust and Italian seasonings. But Mom and I loved going through the jewelry when we visited. My Aunt was a bargain hunter and she often found many bargains, sometimes real jewelry sold as costume. Believe it or not, she still sold them to my mom at a profit. Because that was how they made their living. I thought it was pretty funny that she'd charge Mom more. But I understood. I guess I was a sensitive child.
Aunt Joyce asked my mom why she gave that necklace to me and not her. Now you have to understand how close my mom and my aunt were and the family dynamics were a little strange/strained at times. So to keep the peace, my mom called me and told me apologetically, that she needed the pendant back. I know it broke her heart to ask for it, but I knew my Aunt could give my mom grief , and hell, I love Aunt Joyce so much. I said "sure, she can have it". And so it continued getting passed around our family.
When I had it, I wore it all the time. Every day. In the shower, the pool, All The Time. My mom remarked to me one day a few years later: "I've never seen her wear the necklace Karen". And then we both understood it was about love. Maybe Aunt Joyce needed that gift from my mom because she grew up equating diamonds to love. maybe it didn't mean as much to her once it was in her possession. I don't know, I wish I had asked.
Mom felt really bad taking it from me, and she gave me something in place of it. I almost fell over when I saw it. A little diamond sun. It has a center diamond then it is surrounded by diamonds. And boy does it sparkle. She said "I want you to have this because I feel like shit taking that antique necklace from you". And I said "No Mom, this is not necessary". But I already knew the story. Diamonds equaled love between the women of our family and she wanted me to be sure I knew she loved me.
So misguided as I was, that's how I grew up. Diamonds equaled love. Little diamonds meant little bitsof love, big diamonds mean lots of love. I know it's wrong. But as a young woman, that is what I believed. I believed that if I had big diamonds, it meant my husband loved me. Imagine my devastation when I didn't get that diamond anniversary ring on our 5th, 10th or 15th. He didn't understand. And in his defense, I was being unreasonable. We were a struggling blue collar family raising two young kids. No money for diamonds.
Anyway, now I am in my middle age and jewelry has a different meaning to me. About time right? It means sentiment. I wear my Grandmom's ring, and I feel her with me. When Aunt Joyce passed away and mom gave me the antique pendant back, I didn't get a pendant, I got a piece of Aunt Joyce. A piece of her soul. And when I wear it, I feel them. The women in my past. The women who influenced me, who loved me. Even though I know how misguided my thinking was, I now appreciative that they did pin so much on their jewelry. And that they passed it on to me.
Because you know what? Diamonds are forever. And so is Female Family Love.
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