When my mother died four years ago, I "inherited" her collection of costume jewelry. I keep it in a big cloth grocery store bag. Mom liked bright colored big cheesy necklaces - I know she bought most of her accessories during the 70's and 80's when that type of jewelry was socially acceptable. She also loved earrings. She never had her ears pierced and had a large collection of clip-ons.
I wouldn't be caught dead in the majority of what's in that bag. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone wearing huge red plastic beads with matching earrings? Still, I've been hanging on to her collection.
I'm going to be participating in a camping weekend for children who are grieving the loss of someone close to them, and one of the scheduled activities will be puppet-making. While attending a training session for camp volunteers, I was told that donations of fabric, buttons, raffia and other random items that could conceivably be sewn or glued on a puppet were being solicited by Hospice of Anchorage, the organization offering the weekend to grieving kids.
I thought, "Hmm, I must have some stuff at home that I can donate." I knew that I had raffia and a few remnants of material, but it wasn't until today that I thought about that damn jewelry.
I've been thinking of Mom a lot lately because while training for the camp I've waded through some grief exercises. Hospice of Anchorage requires that people helping with the weekend experience some of what the kids will experience and I've shed a few tears remembering my mother the past couple of weeks. Today I went through her jewelry piece by piece, and honest to God I could remember days, gatherings and situations in which she had worn every single item. Those ugly, chunky necklaces, earrings and bracelets morphed into priceless jewels in my hands as I held them. Visions popped into my head of my mother before she was sick - when she was still youngish and vibrant and taking yoga classes, entertaining friends at a local country club, and traveling the world while wearing her funky jewelry.
The bag is in my car, ready for my return to Anchorage early next week. It's a little lighter than it was when I dragged it from my closet this morning because to my surprise I found three necklaces in there that I actually like and might wear. While I'm volunteering at the camp next weekend, I wonder if I'll watch a child choose a bauble that belonged to my mother and use it to craft a puppet that represents the person that child has lost?
Wouldn't that be wonderful?