These earrings remind me of Bayfield, Wisconsin, because I bought them on a day trip to Bayfield with my mom. I liked the curve of the hoops and dainty pearls. After paying for them, I slipped them in my ears because I’d forgotten to wear earrings that morning.
Over the span of fifty years, I’ve been to Bayfield with family and friends and have fond memories of the small town on the hills overlooking Lake Superior. But one of my favorite memories of Bayfield doesn’t include me.
My mom took my first son to Bayfield when he was three years old and still an only child. I had to work, so they went by themselves. On the way to Bayfield, they found a turtle on the side of the road, and Mom stopped and put it in her car. When they arrived in Bayfield, Mom found a hardware store and bought a wash tub for the turtle. My son had a new pet, and the pet had a new galvanized home.
They ate lunch at a restaurant and Mom let my son order fries with his sandwich. If we ordered my son a meal with fries, he’d eat the fries and leave the meal untouched. Most of the time, we didn’t let him order fries. But he was with Grandma. He had fries for lunch—just fries. His sandwich went uneaten. But grandmas don’t scold about that sort of thing.
Mom went into a few clothing stores where my son entertained himself by crawling into the middle of circular clothing racks while she shopped. He invented his own world.
In one dress shop, he fell in love with a clerk named Sabrina. She was about twenty, petite, with big brown eyes and dark hair in a pixie cut. Mom said he followed Sabrina around the shop, talking to her, smiling at her, looking at her moon-eyed. He wasn’t happy when they left the store, and he was parted from his new love. But that’s the way it often is with a first love—it breaks your heart. My son’s May-December romance was doomed. But his three-year-old heart rebounded quickly. After all he had his turtle. And Mom took him to the shore so he could throw rocks in Lake Superior.
Before leaving Bayfield, Mom had second thoughts about bringing the turtle back to my house.
“Do you think the turtle will miss his family and friends?” she asked him.
My son thought so.
“Do you think we should take the turtle back to his family and friends?” she asked.
They set the turtle free, and returned with an empty wash tub. My son had parted with his first love and his pet turtle, but by the time they arrived home, he had moved on.
“How was your day?” I asked when he came in the house.
“It was the best vacation I ever had!” he said.
Mom had a way of making an ordinary outing into a small adventure for her grandchildren.
On the trip to Bayfield when I bought these earrings, it was just Mom and me. My sons are grown with families of their own.
We didn’t see a turtle or toss rocks in the lake, but we had lunch and ate our fries and sandwiches. The dress shop where my son fell in love with Sabrina has been closed for years, but Mom and I still reminisced about her and my son’s first case of puppy love.
When Mom retells the story, I wonder about Sabrina, who’d be in her fifties now. Does she still live in Bayfield? Did she ever have children of her own, perhaps a little boy who fell in love for the first time when he was three?