On Monday evening, for the very first time, I wore Ma-Ma’s necklace.
Ma-Ma is my paternal grandmother. She died in February. In a year of staggering losses, I think I can honestly say this one has had the biggest impression on me. Next to my parents, Ma-Ma was an omnipresent person in my life; there have been many wonderful and influential relatives and friends, of all ages, but this lady impacted me in a big way.
So, donning her necklace was a big step. I felt a little funny about it; I’d seen it on her so many times. Anyone who knew her can probably picture it immediately: a long, slim strand of what appear to be small cream and gray freshwater pearls, with a tiny gold bead in between each pearl. It’s a pretty piece, simple, and its light weight tells me that it’s not very valuable in the eyes of the world—but it is to me. And having seen it around her wrinkled neck so many times, I just wasn’t sure if I was worthy. Was this the right moment? Did it look okay with my outfit? Should I leave it in my jewelry box for a few months longer? Perhaps it would be disrespectful to sport it so soon after her departure…
Then I pictured her, putting on the strand to come to a family outing, probably not even thinking about it once she’d worn it a few times. It was simply one of her favorites, not to be contemplated. A woman who’d been vain about her looks for her whole life, I believe she made a point in those last years of not really looking at herself, at the old woman she had become. (I know that I spend increasingly less time in front of a mirror, and that's probably good. I hope that not one of us who lives that many years—she was 2 weeks away from turning 100 when she died—will spend too much time gazing in the mirror, except to tell ourselves how well we've held up and to congratulate the reflected image on a life well lived.)
And then, I considered the occasion to which I would wear the necklace: a funeral visitation for my husband’s maternal grandma, who’d turned 90 in May, had fought the good fight for a few months, and who finally succumbed to absolute weariness. She was the Ma-Ma of Todd’s mom's family. She, too, held a family together through the loss of a husband, although she went on to help rebuild it with her second husband, while Ma-Ma never remarried. Todd’s gram, too, was the matriarch, an ever-present figure at family functions, a voice of experience and knowledge. Somehow, it seemed oddly appropriate that Ma-Ma’s necklace would make its second debut—on a different, younger neck—at such an occasion. It could be a nod, of sorts, from one great elder stateswoman to another.
Do we all, in time, achieve that special, precious patina of the aged? Is it a given, a right for everyone? Or is it reserved for a few unique, cherished, wonderfully worn people? I think you can guess my stance on this matter.
I only hope that I will wear the necklace well.