My mother entrusted me
with the frayed string
that held Nana’s pearls.
How does a legacy born of wounding morph into what I hold now?
Born on her birthday, I was Nana’s first grandchild, destined to alter her world with my wants and needs. How quietly she would alter the minutiae of mine, task by task.
Picture your grandmother’s youthful hands, rounded and smooth, that cool touch on your brow when you were sunburned or feverish.
I remember slender fingers, nails finely-ridged as grasscloth.
Those hands . . .
. . . counted pennies into my palm for each dandelion I beheaded
. . . patted my back when I slept over and city sirens scared me
. . . rewove the heels of my socks with tender grids
. . . let down my hems, mended my jeans
Each effort glowed with love never mentioned: affection enacted.
But the young and self-absorbed — what do they notice?
Her small, patient labors seemed like busywork, and her folksy, repeated stories chafed, straining my patience. Then, while I was away at college, Nana inherited my bedroom. Resentment simmered. I never rewove things between us, never mended the distance. She kept sending me cards.
After her pearls passed to me, I pushed them into the back of a drawer. Not my style. Nor did I realize frequent contact with the oils in human skin keeps the living gems burnished. Like faithfulness, touch revives the inherent hues — true to the being that once fashioned marvel from harm.
Stashed away, luminosity languished.
If mollusks can spin a history of pain into nacreous beauty, perhaps I can, too. Oswald Chambers writes, “We are not meant to be seen as God’s perfect, bright-shining examples, but to be seen as the everyday essence of ordinary life exhibiting the miracle of His grace.”
So, I tried on Nana’s pearls. The string broke. Half the strand scattered. Tossing them felt disrespectful, so I restrung them, repurposing some guilty gratitude into a bracelet of prayer beads.
Now my fingers, with their inherited nails, ridgy as grasscloth, quietly thumb the pearls clockwise, prayer by prayer, akin to Nana patting my back when worry invades me.
Have you repurposed an heirloom? I’d love to hear about it . . .
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