There was a time when I wore gold jewelry. Then, it became too traditional for me, so I wore it less. Finally, occasions at which I might have worn gold jewelry, even if it were not too traditional, vaporized from my life. The timing of these two trends was fortuitous. It would be bad to have a stash of fancy necklaces and bracelets but have nowhere to go to wear them. I forgot about my jewelry. You can wear beads and glass and pearls anywhere, even if you have nowhere to go. I wear beads when I have nowhere to go.
Today, I took my collection of gold jewelry to a store and sold it. It included my old wedding band and other gifts from my then-husband. When we lived in Chicago, our neighbor, Joe, was a jeweler. Most of what I found in my closet last night came from Joe’s business. I’m thinking that he brought it home in his pocket and my then-husband went next door to buy it. It was all very lovely, if you like gold jewelry. Once, Joe pulled out sapphires and rubies from his pants pocket, like jelly beans.
Anyway, while I was waiting for the appraiser to evaluate what I had brought to the store this morning, I listened to a conversation that a woman was having with one of the clerks at the other end of the counter. She had a necklace with a difficult clasp. She could not put it on without looking, and wanted to know how it could be changed.
“It is just me at home,” she said.
The clerk suggested something that might be easier. She called over the jeweler who would make it for her. He told the woman, Barbara, that he would have to readjust the ends of the necklace and fabricate an entirely new clasp. It would cost $95.
Barbara thought for a few minutes. She was in her sixties, I think, and had a grey hairdo and pink lips.
“Not now,” she said, threading the necklace back into its sack. “It’s not that I have anywhere to wear it.”
For now, I have my children at home. If I can’t close a necklace clasp, I can ask one of them to do it for me. If I need a scratch in the middle of my back, they certainly can reach. If there is a bug in my hair, they will tell me. People who live completely alone can walk around with gnats in their hair and not know it. What else couldn’t Barbara do, I wondered, thinking, really, about what I should start practicing. I have figured out the buttons up the spine, the zippers, the attic. I need to work on the sunscreen and the twice yearly bed flipping. It is a challenge to avoid crashing into the ceiling fan. Once, before I was married, I removed a wall-to-wall carpet from underneath a twin bed, desk and chest of drawers, myself, and hauled it down a three-story walk-up to the curb. I can flip a bed.
Before Barbara left, another woman approached the counter, in between us. She was buying cuff links, an anniversary present.
“How long have you been married?” the salesperson asked.
“Forty-two years,” she said, not smiling.
The saleswoman was impressed. The woman said nothing else, returned her credit card to her wallet, and left. Barbara gazed from the end of the glass. I took my money and deposited it in the bank.