The picture of a heart shaped charm that says “Mom” on it is not simply some random online photo I Googled. That’s a locket, one my children lovingly selected for me, for Mother’s Day in the late ’90s. I dug for it in a jewelry box, as I don’t wear it anymore. It is one of many heart shaped treasures that my husband allowed my children to select for me as gifts. As the worn edges indicate, I did wear the locket for many years, the children proudly noticed each time I wore a gift from them. This particular one made things pretty clear. In the same way an engagement ring shows you are betrothed, there is no mistaking who a piece of the owner’s heart belongs to when “Mom” is clearly displayed in her cleavage.
Lockets are a special form of jewelry. Not that the heart shaped necklace with the gemstone flower wasn’t lovely, it’s just there was no place to carry pictures of my daughter and son in it. I often wore my Grandmother’s childhood locket when I was a little girl. Her locket it not heart shaped, it’s round and gold with her childhood monogram on it in a fine cursive script. Though it was only intended to hold two pictures (her parents) at some point she had removed the isinglass to insert a picture of my grandfather over the picture of her own father. On the left hand side of the locket was my Great Grandmother whose stern countenance was reminiscent of Margaret Hamilton in her role as Almira Gulch in the Wizard of Oz. If that character name doesn’t ring a bell, she is the neighbor lady on the bicycle who takes Toto and becomes the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy gets to Munchkin Land. I didn’t want to suggest my Great Grandma resembled the witch, as the black and white photo definitely bore greater resemblance to the character in Kansas. My Grandpa’s picture is quite worn, as I removed it frequently to look at the real treasure in the locket. My Great Grandfather, Ace Porter Abell was a distinguished looking gentleman. I chose his moniker as my son’s middle name.
I assume my grandmother’s childhood locket was likely a birthday gift, probably dating to about 90 years before my heart shaped locket was gifted to me. My grandma was named Neona, she died of breast cancer two and a half years before I was born. She was only 58. I have her locket, her cocktail ring and paintings done by her mother Nida. I share her first initial and her love of the color purple. It makes me wonder where my own locket will end up someday.
I have only one of my own Mom’s Mother’s Day gifts. Typically on Mother’s Day my father would take me over to the local flower nursery (Sunny Side Gardens, which is still located near 44th and France, the neighboring Taystee Treet of my youth is not) to painstakingly select annuals. I would choose Pansies, Petunias and Marigolds for the large pot near the front steps of our house. I feel like the large pot had come with the house and that perhaps there had been one for each side of the steps at some point. I imagine it may have been terracotta underneath the many layers of green paint. It may have been the paint job that allowed the pot to stay intact through the below zero temperatures of our harsh Minnesota winters. Red was my mother’s favorite color, so often a Geranium was in the center of the pot. I’m fond of Geraniums only for sentimental reasons and have never purchased one for my own home. I find their stems have sort of an awkward and unattractive arthritic bend to them. I also don’t buy Marigolds, as I can’t stand their scent. I planted them as a labor of love, knowing my Mom would appreciate them. Despite being gone for at least an hour and spending another hour creating the potted arrangement, it seems my mother never noticed our clandestine activities. Every year, after we summoned her to come out front, she would walk across the porch and spot my handiwork. She was surprised every time!
My mother didn’t have a jewelry box of treasures from Mother’s Days gone by, she had memories of a little girl who desperately needed a bath, with dirt embedded under her fingernails and a huge smile over having pulled it off. There was the one exception, the year she got her “Mother’s ring”. There was an era where rings with the birthstones of ones children was a staple, like Pandora bracelets seem to be now. I remember being at the jewelry counter at Montgomery Wards. No that is not a typo. The real question should be what order had Sears screwed up so badly that year that we were not patronizing their “fine jewelry” counter? I remember the various sample rings that she tried on before deciding on a delicate setting with openwork. I watched how the employee completed the official looking paperwork; size, setting, stones, order of stones. It was in triplicate at least. My eldest brother’s September birthday dictated the sapphire stone, my other brother’s March arrival was acknowledged with a pale aquamarine and my July birthday contributed the ruby. I remember the debate over whether the stones should be placed in birth order or arranged by what was most aesthetically pleasing. We were represented on the ring in the order that we spent our life in the back of the station wagon. I, as the youngest was always in the center where it was easiest for my brothers to extend their arms to save my life if there was a sudden stop. It took several weeks for the ring to be made to specifications. I remember the night we went to Montgomery Wards to pick it up. The ring box was opened and there gleaming before us was an entirely different setting than my mother had chosen. Not delicate, no open work. After much rustling of paper (the copy my parents had been given, the one the store retained and the one that accompanied the completed order) the flustered employee confirmed that other than the correct birth stones, the ring was in fact the wrong one. It was however a more expensive setting and Wards was willing to let my mother take it home without paying more for it. The pendulum took a mighty swing for the Rose family back to being Sears customers.
My mother went home with the ring that day. She wore it both proudly and sporadically throughout the rest of her life. She would have worn it everyday, were it not for the fact that she would get a rash under it when worn too long, something that a bit of openwork might have prevented.
I wear this ring now on occasion. The sapphire is my daughter’s birthstone, the aquamarine is my sons. Their stones rest nicely on each side of my ruby.
I am posting my Mother’s Day Blog a little early. I’m putting in some hours at a local garden center and look forward to selling kids flowers to “surprise” their mothers with. I’ll be working alongside my adult daughter.