I hadn't been looking forward to this day. My mother had announced shortly after Omi died that my cousin and I needed to go through her jewelry box and divvy up the contents. Watch me put off an undesired task. How am I supposed to decide who gets what piece of Omi? I had to make sure each great granddaughter and each granddaughter had some memento. A memento? Gah... How does one divvy up a life?
How is the piece we choose to have any meaning to the great granddaughters that had never seen Omi wear these pieces? How do we come up with a value? In the end, we didn't. Real pearls, diamonds, gold, and silver were mixed with costume ones. We divided into two piles based on whether or not there was sentimental value to us. Then she and I took turns choosing and sharing memories from the sentimental pile for ourselves. And then for our daughters and nieces. We chose for them based on what they were likely to wear at some point in their lives.
There were lockets, and time pieces, and pins, bracelets, and rings. There were hat pins and scarf rings. And even two ankle bracelets, which surprised me. I had not thought those were around until more recently. There was an ornate silver triangle pendant with a tiny spoon at the end hung on a silver chain. We joked about what the spoon could have been used for. There was even a monocle disguised as a pendant on an ornate gold quadruple chain. Not just jewelry either, there were also old coins in sealed glass, a small tiny bible, two shark teeth, and a miniature plastic baby nestled in a small cotton square. An interesting and unusual assortment of items to be sure.
What surprised me the most, though, was the discovery that Omi was a participant in the Summer Olympics. It was the only thing written down from a time long ago, that my cousin was to get the participation award. My grandmother was an Olympian. Wow. She was an Olympian. My cousin thought maybe it was for swimming, because we both remember her swimming a great deal when we were children, but my father said, "No, your grandmother was a sprinter." She didn't place, but she was there at the same age my daughter is now. There during a time when women were growing in Olympic participation. Not only that, she was present during one of the most controversal olympics, 1936 Berlin. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why she never talked about it.
It took the afternoon to sort through the old jewelry boxes. There was a lot of laughter and fond memories. It was not the chore I thought it would be. There was not the sadness that I thought would accompany the task.
And now this morning my kids are going through the pieces that came to me. "This is soooo cool!" "I am so wearing this" "She was a track star? I am so telling my coach he has to let me do sprints now. It's in my genes." They want to hear the old stories attached to each. My daughter wants to hear about the pieces she is getting. She'll have to wait for those stories. She'll be getting those with the other great grand daughters who will receive their inheritance on Christmas Eve, packaged up special from their great grandmother. The first Christmas without her. My daughter can't wait. She, who inherited so many of her great-grandmother's genes and thought her Gromi was one of the coolest people around.
Perhaps my mother's idea was not such a bad one after all.