Counting the rings…

Because apparently I’ve become a tree?  Or I’m no longer honest about my age and you need to check?  Or because I’m adding onto them faster than we thought?  Well, it’s one of these answers… I’ll let you guess which… and then I’ll do something awful to you if you guess the wrong one.

Choose carefully… just sayin’.

No, regardless of the title, this post has nothing to do with trees, or Arbor Day, or Johnny Appleseed.  But it does have everything to do with growing older.  Because with the loss of Mom, I’ve gained something very precious.  Something that is beyond price.  Something that I too will pass on one day to young Kay-Bug when I finally “cast off this mortal coil”.

My Mother’s Pearls.

Yes, I’ve added something to the jewelry collection that I never ever thought I would want.  More Pearls.  Because three strands wasn’t quite enough.  And for those of you who know me well… that’s what? 3 of you?  Well you three already know that Pearls are not my Go-To adornment.  My sparkles are of a different variety, beautiful all, but very different.  But on the day of her funeral for some reason as I finished dressing I felt that I needed some part of her with me.  Something to remind me that she was there as I spoke my words about her and tried to tell everyone what she meant to me and what losing her was doing to me as well.  And so I went to her Jewelry Box, opened it up, and for the first time since I was a small girl took out her Pearls and put them on as my own.  And as I hooked the very old clasp, and added them to the three strands that I already own, I knew instantly that they belonged exactly there.  Because they fit perfectly with the other strands and together they most clearly represent the story of my life.  Together all of those beautiful strands encircle my neck and alternately caress and choke me with the weight of their history and the weight of my past.

First there is the delicate choker-like strand that Eddie gave to me on our Wedding Day way back in 1995.  They are smaller than the others, and I still remember her smile of pride that day as she hooked the clasp, sealed it with a kiss, and said “now you can get married”.  Then there is the slightly larger and longer strand given to me by Bob, also on our Wedding Day, not so long ago in 2007.  I wore them up the aisle as a wiser and more experienced Bride, after having put them on myself because I was no longer in need of her help.  And finally there is the longer, older, more ivory-toned strand that my Mother bought for me to wear as my Sister’s Maid of Honor, as I stood beside her and supported her in her first steps as a true Adult.  But now, in clasping her own strand around my neck, I’ve added the longest, the prettiest, the most creamy, and the most dignified strand of all.  And by closing that clasp, I guess I’ve finally assumed the role she groomed me for all of my life.

I am her.

Or, really, I guess I’ve been her all along, but now I’m able to see that as a good thing.  Because I’ve finished growing up, becoming an adult, and I have taken on her role.  Together with my sister, we are now all that she left behind.  All the many parts of her, good and bad, and both as different as all those many Pearls, tied together with love and faith that we will live on for her.

We are.  We will.

But when I look at that strand, at the creaminess, I know they didn’t start out that way.  Back in the beginning they looked like my own strands.  Polished, perfect, pure and white.

No longer.

Today they carry the burnishing that life has given them, just like me.  Today they glow, instead of shine, because when you are young you do shine, with hope and dreams and plans, but when you grow older you glow with the life experiences that you encountered as you were achieving (or not) those things you reached for when you were young.

Experience polishes you, strengthens you, changes you.

And today I can tell you that I will wear that creamy strand with pride, as a badge of honor, and a sign that I belong. That I am an adult.  That I am ready to lead.  That I can do this.  Her love, her pride, and her faith were all three instilled in me from birth.  I was her first.  I was the one she expected so much from.  And I was her biggest failure and her hardest heartache for a very long time.

I was her.  And that was the part that bothered her the most.

And now I am her, in full, and I hope she is proud.  I hope she knows that I did listen.  I hope she knows I understand.  And I hope she knows that the next time I reach for my Pearls, she is there.  The weight of her love is draped around me, and in that weight I feel the love of her hand, pushing me on, telling me that I can do this.

I can.

And when I see those Pearls I will always be reminded that she’s with me.  Forever.  And in the creamy glow of those strings encircling my neck, if you look closely you can see the rings of love that I will always wear with pride.

Counting the rings.  It’s like counting the love.  There is no end.  Can you count that high?

I can.