Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Millie's bracelet

I found this bracelet in a box with a lot of other old costume jewelry my mother accumulated over the years, most of it my grandmother’s, but this particular bracelet she said belonged to Millie, my grandfather’s second wife. Grandpa and Millie married on the day his divorce from my grandma came through, and they were married 45 years until her death.

I didn’t meet her, or my grandpa, until I was well into my twenties. They lived on the West Coast, estranged from the family. But every Christmas she would send us something we would find appalling and inappropriate--a platter of dried apricots, a piece of driftwood adorned with plastic balls in the shape of a grape cluster. This bracelet reminds me of those gifts--dyed yellow shells with fake pearls and rhinestones. If I'd seen her wearing it back then, I know I would have secretly laughed at it. Now it looks kitschy and fun (still ugly though).

When Grandpa and Millie finally moved back to the Midwest, I saw them more often, once or twice a year at most, and Millie was always a sweet, quiet little woman, a diabetic who had to eat at 5:00 on the dot. The kind of wife my grandpa preferred, who jumped up whenever he wanted something, ever alert so she could meet his every need. After she died, Grandpa went off the deep end, proposing to her sister and then two more women until one finally married him the year that he turned 90. That marriage too ended in divorce, with a court injunction because Grandpa threw an afghan at her. Not an easy man.

I have a few things of my grandpa's to remind me of him--some hats, a turned bowl he made during his woodworking phase--but until I saw this bracelet, it had been some time since I'd thought of Millie. This reminds me of how sweet and unpretentious she was, and how she always remembered us in her own way.

17 comments:

Natalie -- NKP Designs said...

Isn't it funny how certain things remind us of certain people -- even though they may never have owned them?

Dark Purple petunias remind me of my grandmother, though I don't think they ever grew in her garden. Irises, daffodils, and corn ... I know she grew those. But for some reason purple petunias always bring her to my mind.

Thanks for sharing your lovely story about your grandparents.

Karine said...

This is a beautiful story, full of soul. That bracelet was your "port-key" back to a time when Millie was still here! (Isn't that what they are called in Harry Potter? ugh. brain tired.) Thanks. I appreciate your kind comment on my blog, too!

Callooh Callay said...

I think that may be why people like vintage things so much--you try to imagine the person who owned them, what they might have meant.

Thanks--I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

The Banner Queen said...

What a wonderful post! I loved reading about your Grandparent. So sweet!

Angela Morgan said...

That really is a lovely story. Now I wanna write a personal story for my blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

Angelalala

LaMar said...

Love the jewelry

chendric said...

Beautiful story!

The part about the ridiculous gifts made me laugh:) I had an aunt who used to do the same thing. My thirteen year old brother got a leaky jar of homemade hardboiled eggs from her one year-- actually I think that's what all of the "men" in the family got that year...who knows what I ended up with.

Tina said...

I really enjoyed your post! Maybe this is why I feel attracted by vintage items, because I know they are connected with people's lifes even if haven't met them.

Callooh Callay said...

Chendric, that is hilarious. Hard-boiled eggs? It's kind of sweet if you think about it.

Thanks, Tina, I agree. And if you do know them, sometimes those items reflect their personality in some way (in Millie's case, her bad taste!).

Melissa said...

What a cool story - I really enjoyed reading that!! I LOVE vintage :)

Callooh Callay said...

Thanks, Melissa!

Helen said...

Beautiful story! Reminds me of an aunt I had who always bought packages of undies and divided them for me and my siblings every Christmas. Oh how we dreaded opening our undies and pretending we liked them. She was filthy rich and surely could have afforded to give us the entire three-pack. We got one undie each. She passed away (from diabetes) but my siblings and I continue to give one another undies every Christmas in her memory.

matilda sue said...

I think that it is wonderful to have items to wear that remind you of people you love. I have made many items for family from pieces that belonged to loved ones and those are the most cherished. My favorite was a button necklace made from my great grandma's button box for a cousin not old enough to have met her!

Callooh Callay said...

Those are such cool stories. We have a traditional family pillow, an old satin pillow with a picture of a cowboy and poem "Out where the west begins," that goes to people on special occasions. I got it for a wedding gift--should have seen my husband's face. (I was the only one who ever really liked it, but had to pass it on.)

~Stella said...

I love this story...

I think I need to set up some a blog reader thingy so I can remember alll the cool blogs that I like to visit - like yours!

Stella

Callooh Callay said...

Thanks, Stella! I have a page on NetVibes.com where I can put in feeds from websites and blogs in different categories. It's a good reminder.

RG Creations said...

beautiful story. thank-you