The necklace I am wearing today is so out it’s almost in (but not really). Two decorous rows of small pearls, the kind of thing girls in the forties might have worn for a graduation portrait or engagement announcement.
You can find and buy a necklace like it for a few hundred dollars any day of the week at any one of a thousand local estate auctions. Without some personal attachment, it’s just one more thing to liquidate on the way to settlement. But mine is precious because it belonged to my grandmother.
In Sell Keep or Toss: How to Downsize a Home, Settle an Estate and Appraise Personal Property, Harry Rinker notes that “creating memories is the key to successfully passing a family heirloom to the next generation…If you want your family treasures to be treasured by the next generation, you need to create memories with them. Use your grandparents’ dinnerware, flatware, and stemware when entertaining your children. Memories are made standing around the kitchen sink washing these items by hand and talking. Share your family jewelry with your daughter and daughter-in-law. Take pictures while you do all this and pass these down with the objects.”
My mother gave me the pearl necklace as a memento of my grandmother who passed away in 2010. It was pretty, if a little dainty and demure. The pearls sat, respectfully wrapped in silk at the bottom of my jewelry box for several months, until one day I happened to do a double take at a photograph I’ve passed thousands of times. In it, my beautiful, glamorous grandmother smiles into the camera, posing for her wedding portrait. There is nothing dainty about her. Her black eyes flash, and so does the double strand of pearls at her neck. My pearls.
I wear them all the time now and smile to myself each time I walk by her portrait.