In the top drawer of my dresser, and scattered throughout the rest of my apartment, is a treasure trove of imperfect, worn-out, idle remnants from my family’s past.
I keep thinking that one day I’ll recover those beautiful chairs, revamp the antique furniture, frame that Israeli etching and restring the pearls my grandmother left me. However, these loose ends of my past remain untouched.
Considering the size of my apartment, more of the regal but decaying furniture sits in my mother’s attic, collecting fine layers of mold and mildew. The junk cluttered therein never ceases to amaze me, and each time I visit the moist cavern atop her house I always find something new. Some day I may have high hopes for that incomplete needlepoint project, an unread book or the suede mini-skirt—I swear one day I will lose enough weight to fit into. I dream of the possibility of life with ice skates, accordions, theater costumes and backdrops, 70s remnants and a real wire-walking rigging.
At one time, all these belongings meant the world to me. Now, I leave these items precisely where I found them: in my mother’s attic, collecting dust.
After my ex and I separated, I returned my engagement ring to its beautiful but lonely box, and placed it directly next to my grandmother’s broken pearl necklace, in the top drawer of my dresser. Now the ring sits, unattended, changing intentions and spinning memories.
My plan is to give that keepsake to my daughter when she gets older. I’ll present her with the muted velvet box, and watch her awed expression as she embraces one of my promises in her hand, albeit a broken one. Isn’t this what gives an article its sentimental value—connecting emotional journeys to corporal objects?
Certainly I’m not going to wear that ring in my new single life, because it signifies something that no longer exists. Better to keep the pretty little thing tucked away, in a drawer, out of daily sight. Sometimes though, when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, I perform a private ritual for myself, whereby I surreptitiously lock the door, hold the ring, and quietly treat myself to a bittersweet recollection of the moment it was presented to me.
To this day, I still love looking in my mother’s jewelry box. Though she tends toward the modest, she does have a few pieces that leave me guessing about her past. One night I even asked if I could have a pair of her fancy gold and pearl earrings, which I’ve never seen her wear and she said, “Yes.”
“Wow,” I thought, as I held them tight, and looked for meaning in the holographic surface of the pearls. I modeled the earrings for her immediately, and gloated over the period nature of their unique design, but I soon found them uncomfortable, and later put them away in my drawer for safekeeping.
Similarly, my daughter adores going through my jewelry box, and asks countless questions about each little stud or hoop. “Did Daddy give you this?” “Did you wear this when you got married?” “Can I have this when I’m older, like say, seven or eight?” The glee with which she imagines herself, and myself, bejeweled in a particular object is a sentiment worth reliving over and over. I hope at least my stories surrounding each piece stay with her for generations to come.
One day, I am going to restring my grandmother’s pearls, and wear her like a charm around my neck. I’ll recover the chaise lounge, I’ll frame that etching, I’ll write letters on that delicate secretary.
Or perhaps on second thought, maybe some things are better left a memory.
Author: Jenny Klion
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock