Of earrings & figurines
Falling in love and, more importantly, being the center of someone else’s love was a revelation for me.**
Our 1970s courtship was long. It was also complicated by other factors including his divorce and the fact that our respective military assignments meant we lived nearly a thousand miles apart (and that doesn’t even take into account a couple of Mediterranean and WestPac cruises that took him half a world away for six or more months each year). Several-times-a-week letters and occasional phone calls filled the weeks and months between in-person visits (his place or mine?), but they were a poor substitute for the everyday, long-term relationship we eventually decided we wanted.
Our justice-of-the-peace wedding likely predicted the low-key and pragmatic approach that continues to characterize how we deal with almost anything that comes our way. As such, birthday, anniversary, Christmas, and other special event gifts have almost always been more practical than extravagant (case in point: the right side rearview mirror he got for me as a birthday gift to enhance the base model car I had at the time—in his favor: it’s what I asked for AND he went out of his way to have it fancy-wrapped to mark the occasion).
I tell you all this as background to two much more extravagant gifts he gave me early on in our marriage.
Wearing a denim jacket (with embroidery he did himself!) and carrying his motorcycle helmet (can you say dirtbag?), he went into a local jewelry story to find an anniversary gift for me. After checking out what was on offer, he settled on a pair of silver loveknot earrings. To this day, I don’t know how much they cost, but I do know that he ended up having words with the salesman who made the mistake of asking whether he could afford the earrings‽
The second gift was a mother-and-child figurine he gave me for my first mother’s day. It is special to me, first, because it commemorates an especially important time of life for me and, second, because it demonstrates his appreciation and commitment to the us+1 family we had recently become. As you can imagine, that figurine continues to enjoy pride of place on my dresser.
These two items are high on my list of what I consider to be family heirlooms, more because of the love and commitment they represent than any monetary value they might have. I hope to pass both of these along to our daughter at some appropriate time (probably along with a copy of this post so she has a better understanding of why they are important to me).
** I’m not saying that my parents didn’t love me or that I was mistreated in any way, but Mom and Dad were so engaged in their all-consuming struggle to keep their ever-growing family fed, clothed, and housed that they had little time or energy left over to deal with anything more than the most urgent individual needs of their children. As a result, most of my childhood memories are of the collective sort: “we” (Mom, Dad, siblings) had Sunday dinner, etc., rather than Dad (or Mom) and I did this, that, or the other thing.