By the time my mother had been in jail for about five weeks for the murder of my father, it was my birthday. As an adult in the midst of a family crisis, a rocky marriage, and a full schedule of work and a baccalaureate degree, my birthday was just another day on the calendar.
However, when my mother called as scheduled that day and asked my brother, sisters, and me how we were celebrating it, we lied and told her we were with our families at a restaurant. We did not want her to know that we were at her house doing cleaning, repairing, packing, and remodeling, as we had been since that fateful July day more than a month earlier. She had already been through enough, and we did not want her to know we
all spent every spare minute at their home so we could sell it for bail and her defense fund.
We were there seven days a week working on the home, even though we all had full-time jobs and families. We brought our spouses and children there, we ate dinner there during the week and all three meals there on the weekends. So, I was not going to let something like a birthday keep me from doing my fair share. Never mind the fact that the last time I had been in this home my father threw me out and told me never to come back; I wiped those memories from my mind, or tried to.
My little sister came to me that day, my birthday, away from everybody else, “Mom wants you to have this,” she said as she handed me a necklace. My eyes welled up with tears as I saw the familiar piece of jewelry; it was a silver charm necklace. The base piece was a wishbone with a silver strand across the bottom between the base where you would pull the “bone” of the wishbone apart. There were at least ten charms on it, all made of pure silver. I used to secretly steal into my mother’s room and sneak it off of her dresser, borrowing it from her when I thought she would not notice.
“Are you sure?” I asked my sister.
“Yes, she feels bad that we have all been working so much,” she answered, “and that she is in there on your birthday.”
I happily took the necklace, a little shocked that my mother actually wanted me to have something so special; we had never been very close.
A few years later, my mother started to distribute her belongings to my brother and sisters; everything I asked for was already spoken for, so she gave me nothing. So it goes, so it goes. Then, one year I was in the area for Christmas and she came over to my daughter’s house for dinner. She had a gift bag filled with jewelry she wanted to give me; she opened the bag and laid out each piece as if it was something special. It wasn’t. “I wanted to give you all of the good jewelry,” she said, “I know you are the only one who will wear it and appreciate it.” As she laid each piece across the bedspread, I tried to be polite and smile, but I was confused. She had some nice pieces, and these were not those pieces.
The costume jewelry she gave me was old, worn, and most of it was not even fit to be worn. I took it home and added it to my collection of junk.
A few months later she was visiting my home; she was in the guest room where the jewelry was laid out on a dresser, including the necklace my sister had given me for my birthday years earlier. For some unknown reason, my mother started to go through the pieces of jewelry on the dresser; the junk jewelry she gave me, pieces of my own from long ago, and the necklace.
Suddenly, she calls me from the kitchen, “Come in here,” she screams, “what are you doing with this?” she holds up the necklace, fury in her eyes. “I gave this to your sister; you aren’t supposed to have any of the ‘good’ jewelry.” Her voice punctuates the word good, a direct conflict to when she made a point that she wanted to give me the good jewelry.
I explained the story about her being in jail on my birthday and how the necklace was given to me. She was angry. She claimed I was never supposed to get the necklace. The rest of her visit was peppered with tension.
When she left the next day, I went in the room to clean and change the sheets, and the necklace was gone.
My daughter claims she wore it all that summer.