Archive for May 2009
3. May 2009 by gennyfer.
The luster of the pearls caught my attention. They lay atop my mother’s dress shimmering slightly when she moved. To a two-year-old a pearl necklace looks like a toy, most jewelry does. I stretched out my tiny dimpled fingers, reaching for the pretty prize around my mothers neck. She brushed my hand away, told me “No.” I pulled my hand back but the lure of the pearls was too much for my toddler fascination. I reached out again and grasped the pearls in my delicate looking pudgy, surprisingly strong, babies grasp. I yanked on the strand, trying to bring it closer. The pearls flew apart bouncing all over the wooden floor, rolling everywhere I could see.
This is just my imagining of the event. Having spent five full years of my life with one two-year-old after another I have some experience with how they explore their environment. I’m guessing I was not an especially precocious or out of the ordinary two-year-old. It’s likely that the way I was at two was similar to at least one of these five children I know so well. My imagined memory is probably close to the truth. I stop there because I do not want to imagine what happened next. If I dwell on it I shudder at the punishment I must have received for this single, very normal childhood misdeed. I do know that every significant misdeed, real or imagined, that my mother lectured me about from that point on, included a mention of the pearl necklace I ruined.
When I brought home poor grades from school, “I should have known when you broke my pearls.” When I didn’t clean my room, it was just another validation about what she should have known after the pearls. When I was a freshman in high school, we got a series of prank calls. I got a serious lecture because I must have given my number to someone. She brought up the pearls. When mom passed away and we read her journal, sure enough the broken strand of pearls was spattered through her writing in the same way they must have spread across the floor.
Among her things, tucked away in her jewelry box, was a bag of pearls, mixed in with the threads that had once strung them together. In the same way that she held on to them in her mind for most of my life she held on to them physically. A simple, not premeditated, annoyance caused by a small child. A broken, easily restrung, pearl necklace.
My husband and I were out a the monthly art walk held in Portland. We came across a crafter selling jewelry. She was chatting with us while casually stringing a pearl necklace. The simplicity of her actions struck me. Sometimes the things we dwell on are the easiest to fix. The walls we construct that imprison us, sometimes this becomes a life sentence, may be as small as a garden border. If we are willing to see them the way they truly are we could just step right over and be out in the world.
This tale, my pearl of wisdom, is what makes me feel the most anger towards my mother. It hurt and carved away at my self worth growing up, this being in an endless “time-out”. At the same time this pearl necklace makes me the saddest for her too. What kind of prison is it to be mentally ill like that? How alone do you make yourself when you can not see past even the smallest faults of the people that love you? She was so achingly lonely, throughout her entire life. I wish that she had been able to heal in some way. My heart aches to think of all the joy she missed imprisoned by her mind.