Day 10—Butterfly Earrings

Circa, 2017

Today’s earrings don’t have a special story.

I don’t remember exactly where I bought them. But I know it was a quiet gift shop in a sleepy town somewhere.

The kind of shop I would enter to find one clerk and no one buying anything. I would get the feeling that I was the first person (and would be the last) to have entered the shop all day.

When I enter a shop with this vibe, I begin to look for something to buy. A sympathy purchase. I have several pairs of earrings that have been sympathy purchases.

These earrings could also be called a guilt purchase. I knew I’d feel guilty wandering around a shop for fifteen minutes as the only customer and not buying something. (Thinking akin to my stopping at a gas station just to use the bathroom because I always buy something: gum, candy, water.)

These earrings are fine, but I wouldn’t own them if there had been other customers in the shop.

Day 9—My Earring Gets a Bruise.

Today’s earrings were a gift from my son, circa 1991. He doesn’t remember selecting them for me because he was about five and a half, but he did go to the jewelry store with me.

I’d gone to the store to have a watch battery replaced. While I talked to the jeweler, my son stood by a stand of earrings and slowly turned the display.

“Mom,” he said, “you should buy these. They’re pretty.”

I turned to look and started to tell him I wasn’t buying earrings. But he was right, they were pretty.

Very pretty. Fourteen-karat gold. Inexpensive, considering.

“They’d look pretty on you,” he said. He wanted me to have them.

I bought them.

A couple of months later, I bruised one of the earrings.

I’d cradled the handset of a rotary phone between my shoulder and my ear, never thinking I could damage the earring because it was small.

When anyone had complimented me on these earrings, I’d smile and tell them my son bought them for me.

The bruised side of my earring

Now, I’d been careless with his gift.

I tried to buy another pair, but the jeweler couldn’t get another pair.

I asked if it could be repaired, but the jeweler said trying to fix it would make it worse.

I looked at the tiny dents located on one side of the earring.

Facing a mirror, I put on the earring and twisted it until the indentations were facing the floor. I looked into the mirror—I couldn’t see the damage, so no one else would.

I still wear them. They’re still pretty.

My small son wanted me to have them, so abandoning them was never an option.

Day 8—Beach Glass Earrings

Today’s earrings are made from green beach glass and surrounded by silver. The earrings are fraternal rather than identical twins. You take beach glass as you find it—the surf will never spit up a pair of matching smooth frosted pieces of glass.

Beach glass fascinated me when I was a child. I had a stash of several green, white, and brown pieces in an old cardboard cigar box that held other small treasures. I liked tiny treasures—the kind of stuff my mother didn’t like cleaning out of my pockets or the washing machine.

I sometimes wonder where all the tiny treasures from my youth went.

I bought these earrings in early 2020 at the Dovetail Café & Marketplace in Duluth, a couple of months before the COVID-19 lockdown. I had recently discovered the Dovetail and enjoyed meeting friends there for coffee or lunch. I even read a story at one of their open mics then enjoyed a wonderful evening listening to other storytellers and poets.

These days I mark a lot of events as either before or during COVID.

I’m looking forward to adding after COVID.

Day 7—Earrings and Associations

Today’s earrings came from my mother. She received them as a gift from a friend who’d taken a trip to Fiji. My mother wore them a few times, but they’re not her style.

My mother, her friend, and I have spent time together, going to Mackinac Island, eating meals together, watching fireworks from a deck on Lake Michigan. So, a few years after my mother received these earrings, she gave them to me.

I haven’t worn them since the pandemic started in 2020. They aren’t wear-with-a-pair-of-blue-jeans-and-a-T-shirt earrings. But today I think I pulled it off. I wore a navy-blue turtleneck, a pale blue sweater and blue jeans. And when I left the house in the afternoon rain, I wore a dark-blue rain jacket with a sophisticated yet subtle tone-on-tone print. The earrings and rain jacket could be soulmates. (If you’re wondering, Anna Wintour never worries when I talk fashion.)

These earrings remind me of a ride in the backseat of a rented midsized sedan from Kohler, Wisconsin, to Milwaukee in July 2010.

I sat in the middle of the backseat because it was my turn to sit in the middle. And because no one cared about my moderate claustrophobia.

As I slid into the center of the seat, I remembered a surgeon’s advice before I had an MRI: “Close your eyes before you enter the tube and don’t open them.”

My mother drove out of the parking lot. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. I asked my sister-in-law, who sat to my right, to tell me about her scuba diving trip to Bali.

I asked why she wanted to learn to scuba dive. She has lived in Arizona all her life.

I asked her how she learned. Pools were involved.

I asked her about the dangers. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a dive.

I asked her about the world under the waves.

For fifty miles, a blue-green ocean teaming with exotic fish, coral reefs, and scuba divers screened on my eyelids. For every question I asked, she wove a narrative taking me out of the middle of that backseat. I kept my eyes closed.

These earrings remind me of Fiji, my mother, and her friend.

These earrings remind me of Bali, my sister-in-law, and fifty miles of scuba diving adventures.

I know Fiji is not Bali. My sister-in-law hasn’t met my mother’s friend. These earrings didn’t exist in July 2010.

Doesn’t matter. Neurons forge our networks of memories.

Every time I wear these earrings, I return to my happy place in the waters of Bali among fish and reefs and divers—a place I’ve never been.

Day 6—Traveling Teardrop Earrings

I bought these earrings in Tucson, Arizona, in 2003. I went with my husband and sons to visit my mother and stepdad in Phoenix and my father and siblings in Tucson.

These earrings have traveled to Rhode Island, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Hawaii, and Canada. These are hockey earrings. They’ve seen my youngest son play lots of hockey games in many cities. I have a rule about jewelry when I travel—only one pair of earrings and one necklace. These are the earrings that almost always made the cut.

I’ve worn these earrings more than any other pair of earrings I own, so maybe that makes them my favorite pair. As my mother would say, “You can wear them with blue jeans or an evening dress.”

I wore this pair to Winnipeg, Canada, to a hockey tournament. On Saturday morning, I was waiting in the car for my husband to come out of the hotel, so we could head to the rink.

After he got in the car, he said, “Do you feel naked?”

“What?” I hadn’t forgot to put on my pants. (This was long before COVID-19 and pants-less Zoom meetings and endless jokes about people forgetting to wear pants.)

He laughed and asked again, “Do you feel naked?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He extended a closed fist toward me then opened his fingers. Nestled on his palm were my teardrop earrings.

“I thought you might want these, so you didn’t feel naked,” he said.

“Yes, thanks.” I lifted my earrings off his palm and leaned over to kiss him before dressing my bare earlobes.

He had remembered that I had once said I felt naked if I forgot to wear earrings when I left the house.

I’ve never forgotten that he remembered.

Day 5—Sleepy Thoughts on COVID and Earrings

I almost didn’t write today’s post about earrings. I received my COVID-19 booster yesterday evening at 5:15, and today I had aches, low-grade fevers, and major fatigue. Last March when I had my second shot, I was so tired for two days that even getting out of bed to go to the bathroom was exhausting. Today was better than last time, but I still needed four substantial naps. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to have a serious case of COVID.

I chose today’s earrings this morning but didn’t put them on until 6:15 this evening when I started writing this blog. I can’t wear earrings when I sleep.

Today’s pair are Black Hills Gold, a pink-colored rose encircled by golden leaves. I bought them around 1990 with birthday money my father gave me. Every year he’d send me birthday money, and I’d buy something for myself. I couldn’t tell you what else I bought over the years, but I remember thanking him for these earrings.

My father passed away in September 2016 from a heart attack, but dementia had begun to stalk him. If he were alive, he’d be in a nursing home and probably isolated by surges of COVID.

My dad, me, and my cousin’s baby, May 2005

Yesterday on my way to the vaccine clinic, I listened to a story on public radio about sailors who are stuck on cargo ships that can’t get into port. And when they finally do, the sailors aren’t given shore leave because they aren’t vaccinated. The nightly news reports on hundreds of ships stalled in the ocean, but I haven’t heard them talk about the sailors on the ships.

The public radio journalist interviewed a maritime chaplain who comforts crew members stranded on ships. These people can’t see their families, can’t get off a ship to wire money home, can’t walk down a sidewalk. I’m embarrassed to say, I never thought about the people on those ships. One sailor’s wife is divorcing him because she hasn’t seen him in so long. These sailors don’t have the freedom to get off the ship, and they don’t know when they’re going home. I remembered a history lesson about the impressment of American sailors being one of the causes of the War of 1812. I wonder how little a sailor’s life at sea has changed over the last few hundred years.

When I arrived home, I told my husband, “I can’t believe I never thought about the people on those ships. How could I not think about them?” The focus is always on the cargo.

Today was a difficult day. Feeling lousy makes me feel blue, and I spent the day—when I was awake—close to tears.

But . . .

I’m thankful for my vaccines.

I’m thankful I remember the earrings I bought with birthday money from my father.

I’m thankful public radio aired a story about sailors stuck on ships.

I’m thankful that my biggest worry about COVID is being laid low by a vaccine.

Day 4—Earrings from a Cruise

I didn’t take the Caribbean cruise; Sandi, my best friend, did. She bought these abalone shell earrings for me as a gift.

When the rectangles sway, iridescent, pale-green splotches catch light and pulsate across the surface of the earrings, giving the impression they light up from within.

I met Sandi, a paralegal, at a law office where I had taken a summer job. I had dreams of switching careers and becoming a paralegal. Eventually, I decided against the career change, but my friendship with Sandi lasted until she passed away fourteen years later.

The lawyer, who gave me a tour of the office on my first day, introduced me to Sandi, and told her I taught English. Her first words to me were, “I might as well tell you right now, I don’t understand that possessive apostrophe stuff.”

My first words to her were, “I struggle with affect and effect and avoid using either word. And I have to look up how to use lay or lie every time.”

Sandi and me, July 2017

We both laughed. My first thoughts were “I like this person, and we’re going to be good friends.”

There was so much coded in our first exchange of words: We wouldn’t lead with our egos; we’d help each other when needed; humor would prevail. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

These earrings symbolize Sandi’s character. She pulsated kindness and humor and strength, which lit up from inside her.

Day 3—Earrings from My Younger Days

Today jewel-toned crystals of violet-purple, blue-green, and fuchsia-pink wrapped in faux-gold trim dangle from my earlobes.

In the 1990s, I wore these earrings with brightly colored clothes of purple, blue, and green. They complimented my hair, which was long and permed and dark-strawberry blond.

I’m not sure when I last wore them, but it’s been years. I stopped having my hair permed, my skirts got longer, and my earrings got shorter and less flashy. (Now, my hair is more gray than strawberry.)

I had other long, dangly earrings but a few weeks ago I gave them away because I didn’t wear them. Relics of my younger days, I tried to put these earrings in the give-away bag too, but I couldn’t. They’re beautiful, and I can picture the outfits they accessorized. I bought them to wear with a jade-green dress that ended in a swirling skirt. Some memories need a tangible object. I returned them to my jewelry box.

So, this morning I selected these earrings, chose a purple shirt, and twisted my long hair up in a clip. Today, I’m going to McDonald’s and the library—my earlobes are overdressed.

These earrings are probably out of style. But the reason I don’t wear them is because to me they feel too youthful. Fashion is regulated to age groups. Over the years I’ve heard women criticized for dressing too young for their age. Or too dowdy before their time. I’ve internalized many of those voices. And while I don’t think anyone is going to pass judgment on my earrings—unless I accessorize them with a miniskirt and tube top—the fashion-guru voice in my head says, Those earrings aren’t rockin’ it.

But I’m wearing them because they’re today’s story.

I saving them because they might be fashionable when I’m eighty.

Day 2—Second Choice Earrings, Circa 1985

My husband bought these earrings for me—sort of.

I had picked out a pair of small, thick gold hoops with a smooth surface.

The jeweler at our local mall knew what I wanted, so my husband picked them up and paid for them. Wrapped in shiny silver paper and a white bow, my husband presented them to me. Surprise! What nice earrings! Thank you!

The real surprise, however, came when I tried on the earrings. The thin wire threaded through my pierced ear with ease. Next, the wire was supposed to slip into a small hollow opening at the back end of the hoop. I tried for five minutes to get the slender wire into the opening and failed because I could not see behind my ear. Trying to use a mirror was hopeless.

“I can’t wear these,” I told my husband. “I can’t get them closed.”

I took them back to the jeweler, who said I could exchange them for another pair of earrings. So, instead of the sleek, smooth finished hoops I had liked, my second-choice earrings had a hammered finish I did not like. In addition, they were more expensive, although still in our budget.

My husband razzed me about pulling a bait and switch, so I could get a more expensive pair of earrings. I protested and explained again about not being able to close the first pair. “I’m kidding,” he said. I did not tell him that I did not like the second pair as much as the first pair. After all, they were a gift from him.

My husband and I have been married for thirty-six years, and I’ve had these earrings about that long. They are a pair of go-to earrings—the kind I can wear with any outfit. I have come to like them much better than the first pair I chose.

Thirty Days of Earrings

I love earrings. Before the pandemic began, I wore them almost every day. But I stopped going to work during the pandemic, so I stopped wearing earrings every day. Sometimes days or weeks went by without giving them a thought.

But occasionally earrings gave me a nudge because it would suddenly occur to me that I’d better wear a pair before the holes in my ears closed up. More than once, I had a tough time pushing a hoop or post into the hole in my ear. I’ve always worn small lightweight earrings, so I have tiny holes in my ears.

This morning I put on earrings because I wanted to forget about the ups and downs of COVID-19.

I’ve decided to wear a different pair of earrings for thirty days, and tell a story about each pair. I’m not sure I have thirty pairs. (I’m very particular about my earrings.) But if I don’t, I’ll re-wear a pair. And that’s okay because some of my earrings have more than one story.

Day 1—Earrings from Coronado Island, California

I bought these gold-toned earrings with aquamarine-blue crystals on Coronado Island from a boutique jewelry shop owned by the artist who created them. I was drawn to this exquisite pair because my birthstone is aquamarine.

A couple of years after I bought them, I lost one. I wasn’t wearing the clear rubber backings, and the earring slipped out of my ear without me feeling it or hearing it. I still imagine its voiceless descent and landing, most likely on a sidewalk in Northfield, Minnesota.

I was staying at Carleton College, attending a week-long training, and I’d been walking around Northfield. After I discovered the earring was missing, I walked up and down every city block that I’d walked on earlier and some others just in case. For hours, I retraced my steps over and over. I didn’t find my earring.

Using the internet, I found the phone number for the jewelry shop on Coronado Island. The owner answered the phone. I told her about my earrings, my favorite pair. I asked if she had another pair I could buy. She offered to make me a new earring at no charge. She had me send her the remaining earring so she could match the crystal and setting sizes.

A month later, my old earring arrived with its new mate.

I’ve never again worn them without their clear rubber backings. I still have both earrings.

I’ve never forgotten the kind jeweler, who must have also known the sadness of losing a cherished earring. I hope she’s still creating jewelry.

I’d like her to know that I still think of her kindness every time I wear the earrings.