Sometimes a writing prompt will take you in a different direction than you expected. My mother died when I was only three. And I wasn’t allowed in my parent’s (my dad and stepmom) bedroom growing up. This prompt was the first in a series of writing prompts for a “Grandparents, Write Your Story” program I created with the JCC’s of Chicago (there’s still time to sign up, here.) But I do have a very special memory of something that rested on a very special person’s dresser.
My Wife Margaret’s Jewelry Box
Margaret’s jewelry box was the one thing in the house that she kept highly organized. She was creative, an artist. She said, “a house is meant to be lived in!” But with her jewelry box she was very precise—a tray for earrings, another for bracelets, one for necklaces.
It was not a particularly fancy jewelry box: 8” high by 8” wide, six drawers covered in a rough blue fabric, with little dull, silver knobs to open them.
In 1995, when Margaret had 6-8 months left to live from the cancer, she told me she wanted to sort out the jewelry that she thought each of her two granddaughters, Jessica and Katie, would want. I offered to help, but she said no.
She took her time doing it. Tenderly wrapping each piece in tissue paper and making a bundle for each of the girls. “Please give this to them when I’m gone,” she asked.
Grandparents: There’s no “right” or “wrong” way. There are only stories.
I hope that through this six-week “Write Your Stories” program you will form a practice of seeing objects, thinking of milestones, remembering emotions of the past, and write those into stories to share with your family. What did you see, hear, smell, touch or feel? Why was that moment so memorable?
For my story of the jewelry box on Margaret’s dresser, I thought what Margaret did was wonderful! I didn’t know that she thought about things like that. We had never talked about it. I didn’t buy her a lot of jewelry; she wasn’t a “jewelry person.” But in her jewelry box was an accumulation of ‘stuff’ accumulated over our 52 years together.
After Margaret died, I gave each granddaughter her carefully and lovingly packaged bundle. They were sad, but over the years I noticed that they wore them, and it always gives me a warm feeling in my heart to see it.