In the months after Andrea passed away I had to make a lot of decisions and get rid of a lot of things very quickly. I rid myself of a lot of what Andrea disliked about herself the last few years. She had gained a lot of weight, none of it purposefully and much of it because of medical reasons. None of them were life threatening, though the weight obviously was.
With my parents’ help, due to the necessity of moving, I had to get rid of much of her clothing. Dresses, shirts, sweat suits, all kinds of things. Some of it was very dated which made it even harder to go through because it was like looking at a tailored history of the woman who won’t be wearing these clothes any more. I know everyone says “I’ll hold onto this, just in case I can lose the weight and fit into someday,” but we didn’t have a lot of that. Some of it was sentimental. Much of it was hard to look at. I probably got rid of a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have, and I know it wasn’t a set of decisions I should have made a mere month or two after I lost her. But life doesn’t let you do things on your own terms, sometimes, and I had to move into another house, one that didn’t have room for everything, and I had to make these decisions or face dealing with them later on my own. I wasn’t prepared to do that.
One thing I’d given Andrea through the years was jewelry. Nothing fancy, not a lot of big, expensive pieces. In fact, it was small pieces. Silver, mostly, though there was the occasional gold ring or bracelet from when we first started dating.
One of the things that made her smile, always, was getting that silly little blue box with the white ribbon. (Every woman I know who reads that line will know what that means. Those who don’t (sorry, guys, you should or you’re in trouble) it’s a box from Tiffany & Co.) What I learned fairly quickly, though, was that I could get pieces from there without breaking my bank. One such piece was a small necklace, silver, with a little “tab”, so to speak, that just had “Return to Tiffany’s” on it.
It isn’t a fancy piece. Nor is it expensive. I gave it to Abbi, though, because she had seen her Mom wear it often and always liked it. It was, after all, at almost eye level for a little girl, when on her lap as a kid, and then standing in front of Mom to get her hair done, her clothes straightened, you name it. It was the central point where she could look at her Mom’s neck while enduring the constant primping and preening for special events and school days.
So I gave Abbi the piece. It was a good match, I thought. Abbi has the same skin tone, and even looked amazingly like her Mom this last weekend when she hit the stage for her school musical. She loves it, not because it came in a blue box, but because it connects her to her mother. I get it. I have a St. Anthony medal around my neck that connects me to her somehow, that I never take off, the metal rubbing and fading with the showers and grime of the day. For Abbi, it’s a visible sign every time she looks in the mirror . . . the same focal point she had all those years growing up.
It’s the musical that sparked all this thought, though. At one of the performances Abbi was told she couldn’t wear the necklace. She took it off, thinking she’d put it in her purse. It hadn’t made it to the purse, though. I’m not sure if she hadn’t realized or if she was afraid to tell me, but late on Saturday, after watching her a second time on the stage, I got home, sick with the flu. I was nodding off on the couch and heard her sniffling, meekly, like the little girl I carried in my arms so many years ago, she called “daddy . . . ” and I heard the panic in her voice. “I can’t find my necklace. Mom’s necklace. I thought it was in my purse, and I can’t find it, Dad! What do I do!”
Abbi thought it was her fault, thought the worst. The possibilities really were limited: in the plastic bin with her costume, in the boots she’d left at the school, or on the floor of the girls’ dressing room. There were a limited number of places it could be and limited number of possibilities.
“I lose EVERYTHING!” she said in tears. “I never, ever take it off except to shower, what do I do?”
My first instinct was to give her a huge hug, which I did, but I also assured her not to worry. First, It had to be somewhere and we’d find it. Second, it wasn’t expensive, so even if someone took it, we’d appeal to the personal value it had to us.
Like her mother, uncannily, as a matter of fact, she wanted to panic, freak out, and start the worry there and then. Like her mother, I looked her in the eye and told her “It’s late, almost bedtime. Even if it’s there at the school we can’t get in, but neither can anyone else. The best thing right now is to wait and take a deep breath. There’s no reason to panic until it’s time to worry. That’s not now.”
She didn’t want me to talk to or email her teachers. No matter the sentimental value she was embarrassed she’d lost it. But I’m a Dad. Can’t do that.
Without her permission and without her knowing it I emailed the drama director and spelled out what it meant to us. This isn’t a piece of jewelry. It’s a piece of Andrea. “We didn’t have much left after we lost my wife,” I told her, “but I gave each of the kids something of hers. This really means a lot to Abbi.”
And it does. It’s not that Andrea’s in there, a physical part of her, but it triggers those synapses. It makes your eyes glaze over and your pupils focus past what’s in front of you and see in vivid detail when Andrea would lean over Abbi and the necklace would bobble just above her nose. When she’d come over and lean down to me in my chair and kiss me, and I’d feel the chain and tab tickle my neck and chin. When the boys would grab at it and tug thinking it was a game. It’s the history it contains that makes it so valuable.
So, yes, I violated my promise. I emailed the teacher.
Today the email came in saying “How amazing, Mr. Manoucheri. I found that very necklace Thursday night in the dressing room!”
She hadn’t described it because she didn’t want someone who didn’t own it claiming it. She was about to turn it into lost and found. Once she knew what it was she was really happy she’d kept it.
I sent Abbi a text letting her know we’d found it. I could feel the relief in her response.
It’s not the necklace, it’s what the necklace does. Each little scratch is a moment etched in its history. Every little jingle, each small link in the chain holds some sort of memory that can trigger. Our memories aren’t simply ours to grab. They are sparked, electric, like a bolt of lightning throwing us into the past. A smell, a song, a picture . . . and a necklace.
All of them . . . pieces of her.