Day 21—Earrings for the First Snow of the Season

It was snowing when I went to bed last night, so this morning I stopped by the kitchen window to see how much had fallen.

Two inches blanketed the ground, a white fluffy comforter covering green lawns and leftover leaves that fell too late for mulching or raking.

Chickadees darted from the cedar tree to the feeder and back. My dogs, Cabela and Ziva, stood by the backdoor, waiting to go out. I thought about which earrings I’d wear today. But dogs first, earrings second.

Ten years ago, I bought these earrings at a bead shop in Duluth, Minnesota. Today I chose them to compliment the new snow and the gray clouds rolling overhead.

If I were a child, I would’ve skipped the earrings. I would’ve bundled myself in snow pants, mittens, boots, a jacket, and a hat.

I would’ve built a snowman,

Wrapped a scarf around his neck,

Stuck two sticks in his midsection for arms,

Pilfered charcoal from the garage for his eyes,

Called through the backdoor for my mother to bring a carrot for his nose,

Placed an old hat on his head.

I would’ve looked at the snowman,

Talked to him,

Wishing him to come to life.

Today I had a cup of coffee then selected a pair of earrings to wear to the grocery store.

Ziva
Cabela

Day 20—Earrings with a Back Problem

Today’s earrings are gold with amethyst gems. I accessorized them with a mask while shopping for winter boots for my grandkids. Every time I put on my mask or removed it, I was careful not to catch an earring on the elastic strap. I found boots for my grandkids and kept both earrings in place. It was a good day.

My husband bought these earrings for me in 1984 before we married. I like their old-fashioned style. I used to wear them a lot, but until today, I hadn’t worn them in years.

Shortly after he gave them to me, I found one on the floor behind the bar where I worked. I didn’t feel it slip from my ear. It was the second time I lost one. The first time I found both the earring and the back. This time I only found the earring. I put the earrings in my purse to keep them safe.

The next day I went to the jewelry store where my future husband bought the earrings. I told the jeweler that I loved the earrings but was afraid to wear them because the earrings kept falling out of my ears. I was angry because the backs kept falling off. They were supposed to keep the earrings in place.

Flimsy, cheaply-made backs too weak to grasp the posts were the problem. So, the jeweler sold me a pair of sturdy backs that gripped the posts like a macho handshake. He told me to wear them with all my post earrings. I told him I was glad I hadn’t lost an earring because of the cheaply-made backs. I told him the backs that came with the earrings should’ve stayed in place. I told him I didn’t think someone should have to buy backs after buying a pair of earrings that came with backs.

But I still use those sturdy backs on all my post earrings.

After my nana died in 2003, I was given her amethyst ring. I don’t remember seeing the ring in Nana’s jewelry box when I was young. My sisters and I were captivated by her jewelry when we were young. We’d hold a piece and she’d tell us its story. The gold wedding bands from her first marriage. A gold cross and chain. Rosary beads. Rings. Necklaces. Earrings. Nothing extravagant, but all with a memory she cherished. Stories told again and again.

I thought Nana inherited the amethyst ring from one of her sisters, but my sister thinks Nana bought the ring for herself because she loved amethyst and the color purple. Either way, the earrings and ring look like they were destined to be together.

I’ve been wearing the ring since last week, and twice my five-year-old grandson has said, “Nana, I really like your ring.”

“This ring belonged to my nana,” I told him.

“Really? That’s nice,” he said. We looked at the ring. It’s important to share stories.

When I saw him today, I should’ve asked him if he liked my matching earrings.

Day 19—Altered Earrings

Circa 2018

After wandering around a gift store several times, looking for a gift for friend, I bought these earrings. For myself. And nothing for the friend.

It’s a gift store I like, and I’d had good luck finding gifts for family and friends before, but this time, after circling the store several times, I couldn’t find the right gift.

I bought these earrings because I knew I’d feel guilty if I left without buying anything. I liked these earrings to a point. And that point ended at the tiny silver circles at what are now the bottoms of the earrings.

The circles at the bottom of these earrings aren’t decorative. Jingly stuff hung from it. I decided to buy the earrings and remove the superfluous jingly stuff when I got home.

Simple is better. Sophia Loren’s character in the romantic comedy Houseboat proves this when she removes two strings of hideous purple flowers from an otherwise gorgeous gold gown.

I gleefully removed the jingly stuff from my new earrings. A pair of Peruvian green stones wrapped in delicate silver wire remained. They’re not as pretty as the gold gown, but then I’ve never been Sophia Loren.

And I did find a gift for my friend, but at a different store.

[For another story about earrings I bought out of guilt read: Day 10–Butterfly Earrings.]

Day 18—Moonstone Earrings and Necklace

Today’s teardrop earrings are moonstones set in sterling. I bought them in December 2018, at Northgoods located in Petoskey’s Downtown Gaslight District.

Northgoods is my favorite gift store in Petoskey, Michigan. Most of the goods in the store are made by artists and craftspeople. The store is art gallery meets craft show. When I visit the store, I walk through it twice because there is so much to see.

Northgoods carries Petoskey stones and many products made with the stones. Polished Petoskey stones are beautiful, but I don’t own any jewelry made with them. I’ve never found a pair of Petoskey stone earrings that appealed to me, but I keep looking. That’s how I found the moonstone jewelry. I was only going to buy the earrings, but the setting on the necklace with the pale blue crystal set above the oval moonstone is elegant, so I bought it to keep the earrings company.

Today I’m wearing the moonstone earrings and necklace with a pale gray, floral sweater trimmed at the sleeves and V-neck in pale pink. The sweater is a hand-me-down from my mother. She gave it to me on one of my many trips to Petoskey.

I’ve been going to Petoskey for almost thirty years to visit my mother, who was at first a seasonal resident but now resides there year-round. Lake Michigan and the cities and towns near its shores are woven into my life. My husband and I make two trips there a year, and I often go a third time.

Since the pandemic lockdown ended, the only travel I’m comfortable with is driving to see my mother in Petoskey.

When they were young, I took my children to Petoskey in the summers. Now my husband and I take our dogs there. Life changes. Sometimes my husband and I talk about the time to come when we’ll no longer go to Petoskey.

Day 17—Earrings without a Story

I don’t remember where I bought these earrings. They have no special story. I didn’t lose one of them. They aren’t connected to a family member or a friend.

I bought them about five years ago, from a place I don’t remember, for no particular reason.

I wore them today because they don’t have a story, so I hoped to write this blog quickly.

I’m a quilter, and a quilting teacher once told me, “Honey, I’m not trying to offend you, but if you had to sew for a living, you’d starve.” She had worked in a garment factory in the South before the garment industry moved overseas and she moved north.

I wasn’t offended. She was correct. My sewing machined hummed a slow tune, never a fast jig. Her philosophy applies to my writing. If I had to produce words for a living, I’d starve. My writing, like my sewing, is slow and measured. After sixteen days of producing a blog piece every day, I have new respect for writers who do this every day.

I need to write today’s blog quickly because I have my four grandkids today, and in the evening, I have a two-hour writing class. I had my grandkids yesterday, then I had a board meeting for a nonprofit that I serve on. Time is scarce. I provide daycare for all four of them, ages three to ten, and homeschooling for the oldest two. At the end of the day, my brain is worn thin like an old T-shirt.

As I write this, the homeschooled grandkids are reading science and history stories in the back room. The three- and five-year-old grandkids are playing with blocks in the front room where I’m writing. They’re steeped in a world of imagination, their voices giving life to the stories they’re creating with blocks and Little People characters.

Soon I will stop writing this story to make breakfast, then begin lessons with the older two kids.

In between lessons, I will

settle disputes between the younger two kids

help the three-year-old with potty training

let the younger two play with Play-Doh

dole out hugs to anyone who gets an owie

make lunch

let my dogs in and out a bazillion times

read to the little ones

clean up after Play-Doh

serve water

sweep the floor

wash dishes

correct lessons

and revise and edit this blog story.

This Saturday, three of my grandkids will get the first of their COVID-19 vaccines. After Christmas they will be fully vaccinated and return to their classrooms. Another step toward pre-pandemic normalcy.

But the three-year-old will still keep me company when his parents work. And he doesn’t nap anymore.

By the way, I like these earrings, even if they don’t have a story.

Day 16—Earrings with a History

Mom discovered these white gold, diamond earrings in an antique shop in southern Wisconsin not long before she, Dad, and my siblings moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1977. She told Dad about them, and he bought them for her. They’re very old earrings.

After moving to Tucson, Mom lost one of the earrings during a house party she and Dad hosted. The house they lived in had a spacious backyard with a pool, an ideal spot for an outdoor party after the desert sun set behind the Tucson Mountains. She lost the earring in the backyard.

After Mom discovered the earring was missing, guests helped her search for it but without success. She needed outside help from a woman with influence. She called her mother (my nana) who lived in Milwaukee, and asked her to pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things.

Mom wasn’t a practicing Catholic, but she had faith in her mother’s connection with St. Anthony. It had worked for Mom before. Nana hung up the phone and sent a prayer to St. Anthony. The prayer worked. Mom found the missing earring shortly after Nana’s plea to the patron saint of lost things.

Several years after the episode of the lost-and-found earring, my parents divorced. Mom gave me these earrings after the divorce. She also gave me five small diamonds that had been set in her wedding band.

I thought I lost these earrings once during a move. It was a couple of days before I found them. I had wrapped them in tissue paper and placed them in a plastic margarine container for safe keeping during the move. I didn’t call Nana to ask her to pray to St. Anthony. Maybe if I had, I would’ve found the earrings sooner. I don’t know why I didn’t call her. Perhaps I didn’t want to believe the earrings were lost. Perhaps I thought Nana’s prayers to St. Anthony only worked for Mom.

A few years after Mom gave them to me, I became curious to know if the diamonds in the earrings were real, so I had my jeweler look at them. Three were real and one was fake. I asked why that might be, and he had two explanations. First, the practical reason: A diamond could’ve fallen out, and the owner had it replaced with a synthetic diamond because she couldn’t afford a real one. Second, the nefarious reason: Someone sold the earrings and claimed all four diamonds were real to increase the profit margin.

The small diamonds my mother had given me were the same size as the fake diamond in the earring, so I had the fake diamond swapped out for a real one.

These earrings have a history that precedes me, but they’re not talking. I wonder about the woman who owned and wore them before my mother and I did. I wonder if she loved them as much as I do. I wonder if she ever prayed to St. Anthony for help in finding lost things.

Day 15—Hospital Earrings, Duluth, Minnesota

My triplets, circa summer 2017

The hospital visits began with an afternoon phone call from Sandi’s son, who lives on the West Coast. Sandi had gone to the hospital in the morning. Tests run by the emergency room doctor revealed kidney stones and she was having a rough time. He couldn’t reach his sister who was out in the countryside where cell reception was spotty. Could I go to the hospital?

Sure.

Sandi had kidney stones, but the ER doctor also found a mass on her kidney. A kidney doctor said he needed to take care of the kidney stones in her good kidney before he could remove her cancerous kidney.

After her kidney stone problem was eradicated, her cancerous kidney was removed.

Not long after, a routine colonoscopy revealed a large tumor in her colon. A doctor removed the tumor, which she said looked benign, and sent it for testing. Cancer.

We hoped the cancer hadn’t spread, but a body scan revealed cancer in Sandi’s liver.

Over the next couple of years, I lost track of my visits to see Sandi when she would be in the hospital.

On one visit, I stopped by the hospital’s gift shop before I left. Hospitals have the best gift shops. I walked through the shop, letting time stand still. I looked at the beautiful gifts for sale, gifts for women and men and children and newborns. Scarves, purses, jewelry, crystal figurines, frames, vases, toys, books, stationery, slippers, clothing—a smattering of everything.

Before leaving the shop, I bought a cup of coffee and a cookie. I scrutinized a circular rack of earrings on the countertop. A pair of earrings caught my eye. I bought them, knowing they would remind me of Sandi and my trips to the hospital to see her.

By the time I bought these earrings, the cancer had already shown up in Sandi’s colon and liver. Her family and friends all hoped for a cure, but I wondered if each new procedure or treatment designed to beat back the spreading and recurring cancer had scraped away their hope like it did mine.

I wore these earrings while Sandi was still alive. She liked them. Although, they were a bit subdued for her taste.

Sandi rarely wore earrings, except when she went on a cruise. Then she wore long dangling earrings with lots of glittering crystals and colorful beads. She called them her “slutties,” and she wore them with formal evening attire to dinners on cruises. She bought a new pair for every cruise. “Look at the new slutties I bought for my cruise,” she’d beam. “It’s not easy being eye candy, you know.”

I wore these earrings after Sandi died. I wondered if she’d chosen a pair of her slutties to be buried in. I don’t remember which earrings I wore to her funeral in September 2018.

One morning in November 2018, almost three months after Sandi died, I wore these earrings to work. After I returned home, I discovered I had one naked ear. I hadn’t worn the rubber backs. The wire hooks were so long, I thought they couldn’t fall out.

You’d think I’d learn. [Read: Thirty Days of Earrings.] I was devastated. I tried to find the earring when I went back to work. I asked coworkers. I checked the lost and found. It was gone. My earring was single.

I began a quest to find another pair. I bought these earrings in 2017, so in 2018, they were last year’s design made by the company Silver Forest. For years I’d seen their earrings displayed in many gift shops. So, whenever I entered a gift shop in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan, I checked to see if they carried Silver Forest earrings. I often found their displays, but I never found the same pair of earrings.

Then it occurred to me to look up the company on the internet. Turns out they will repair a broken earring or replace a lost earring if they still have the design elements. But I had to send the remaining earring back to them so they could match the new one to it. For sentimental reasons I was afraid of losing the remaining earring.

Already in the spirit of internet searching, I turned to Amazon. I searched through almost one hundred pairs of Silver Forest earrings, but I found them. Now I have three identical earrings. I don’t know which one is the original mate of the lost earring.

When I told this story to someone, they asked me if I still had the original earring. “Of course,” I said. “What if I’d thrown it out then found the other one?” I know a woman who lost an earring but refused to throw the other one away. Months later, in the spring after the snow and ice melted in her driveway, she found her lost earring. And it was unscathed.

I like to think Sandi has my lost earring in heaven with her, and when I see her someday, she will hold out her palm with my earring and say, “Did you lose something?” before she even says hello.

And I will respond, “How the heck did you get that?”

She will answer with one of her favorite retorts, “Let me splain it to you, Lucy. It doesn’t matter how long the hooks are on a pair of earrings—always wear the rubber backings.”

Day 14—Icy, Pale Blue Earrings

Purchased summer 2019 from Waters of Superior, Duluth, Minnesota. Closed permanently in September 2020, because of the pandemic.

The icy, pale blue crystals of these earrings remind me of NASA’s eyes. She was a Siberian Huskey and a loyal companion to a man named Tom. He named her after the National Aeronautics Space Administration because space exploration thrilled him.

Tom was a steelworker, who helped build the Sears Tower in Chicago, among other structures. He was also a private pilot and a skydiver. That’s how my father met him. My father was a private pilot who had a business hauling skydivers. Tom made lots of jumps out of my father’s plane.

Tom and NASA seemed made for each other. They were both strong, muscular, and compact, with piercing blue eyes, Tom’s being a couple of shades darker than NASA’s. They were both independent. NASA was protective of Tom and didn’t welcome other people or dogs into their circle. And that was fine with Tom.

NASA had an interesting life. She went almost everywhere with Tom, and when she couldn’t, she stayed with his mother.

In the early 1970s, when Tom spent a year in Hawaii working on a construction project, NASA went with him. She had to spend time in quarantine after arriving in Hawaii, but Tom wasn’t going to be without her for a year.

Tom had an apartment in Chicago, but sometimes slept in the back of his pickup truck with NASA when he came to Franklin, Wisconsin, to skydive. His truck had a topper and under the topper, he always had sleeping gear. They sometimes slept in the truck in our driveway or at the drop zone. Once when my parents offered Tom a bed or couch in our home, he chose to sleep with his dog in the back of his pickup truck.

When Tom moved to San Francisco in 1977, NASA went too. When she passed away after a long happy life, he buried her on a hill with a beautiful view.

Funny thing, I remember more about Tom than other skydivers who came to our house for meals or to have my father fix their vehicles. This is because of NASA. She intrigued me because she had a lifestyle that no other dog I’d ever known had. She was the only dog I knew of that slept on the packing table in a skydiving shack while her master went up in a plane, jumped out, and floated back to earth. She’d wait without moving, until Tom came back to repack his parachute.

And anyone who remained in the shack gave her space.

Day 13—My Diamond Studs Get Jackets

Earring jackets. The posts go through the small holes at the top.

Yesterday I wrote about my husband surprising me with diamond earrings for Christmas.

He had one more bit of jewelry magic up his sleeve. When he bought my earrings at Christmas, the salesperson told him about jackets for stud earrings. Yes, it’s the Northland. Winters are cold around here. Diamond earrings need jackets, don’t ya know.

My earrings got their jackets in March, when I had my birthday. March is plenty cold, so jackets were appropriate. When I opened them, he called them something so cute that I wish I could remember what it was, but it wasn’t jackets. He had substituted some other word.

I remember my oldest son called the grill a congrilla. And on warm summer days, he’d ask me, “Can we get Grandpa George and cook something on the congrilla?” If I had time, we’d get something from the store to grill then pick up his great-grandpa George. My son still loves to grill. Sometimes I still use the word congrilla for grill.

I remember my youngest son, when he was about five, would announce, “I’m thirty.”

“You’re thirty?” I’d ask.

“No, I’m thirty,” he’d say.

“Oh, you’re thirty,” I’d say.

“No, I’m thirty,” he’d say, getting frustrated and near tears.

“Oh, you’re thirsty,” I’d say.

“Yes!” he’d say, relieved his mother finally understood.

I know. I was bad. But he still talks to me.

When my grandkids ask me for a drink of water, I ask them if they’re thirty. “No,” they’ll say, “we’re not that old.” I laugh and give them water. They look at me like I’m the Madwoman of Chaillot.

I wish I could remember what my husband called the earring jackets because his word was better. But he only said it once. It didn’t become part of an Abbot and Costello routine between us. So, the word is in my brain, but the pathway to retrieve it is permanently corrupted. But the imagine of him presenting me with the elegant jackets for my Christmas earrings remains. And so does the moment of humor, even without remembering the funny word.

Day 12—Christmas Surprise Earrings, Circa 1999.

Diamonds are difficult to photograph.

I opened my last gift, a small box that had been tucked under the tree in the back. Inside a pair of “mama-bear” diamond stud earrings winked at me.

I had long wanted a pair of diamond earrings, but the reality is two diamonds cost more than one, like double the price. I didn’t want to settle for tiny diamonds because I wanted them to catch and throw light. But I didn’t want diamonds so big they looked fake. I had wanted mama-bear-sized diamonds, which were still in a fairy tale beyond my budget.

I gushed, and told my husband they were perfect. But I worried they cost more than our Christmas budget allowed. He’d won the money on a football pool. He’d guessed, correctly, the outcomes of more football matchups during the season than anyone else. And he used the money he won to buy me diamond earrings.

“I’m sorry they’re kind of small,” he said.

“Are you kidding?” I laughed. “I was just thinking they’re so big.”

I put on my new earrings. My husband gave up his winnings to buy me a special gift. I think of my diamond studs as my O. Henry earrings.