I went through my jewelry box looking for a particular cameo pin that my mother had given me years ago. When I found it and held it in my hand, I remembered another cameo from long ago. My Granny had given me a delicate cameo ring, one that I wore on my pinky finger, and I treasured it. I was in my early teens, and it was the only gift I remember my Father’s mother giving me. I didn’t see her often, as my parents had divorced when I was a toddler, and I think it was difficult emotionally for Mom to make the drive from Florida to Tennessee to visit Granny and my aunts and uncles from that side of our family.
A very young me with my Granny.
We lived a happy life, but as always, times were tough financially and there was never enough money to make ends meet. I can still see Mom so clearly, prowling around the house at the end of the month, searching for some remaining treasure to sell to be able to pay a utility bill or to buy food. She never complained about letting go of her things, just stoically made the choice and did what had to be done. I joined in at times, crying bitterly in the bedroom as people came to take my piano away, then the granddaughter’s clock Mom had given me for Christmas one year. We did what we had to do to keep going. And we always kept going.
And then one day there didn’t seem to be anything left to sell, and I offered the cameo ring to my mother. She felt so badly, hesitated, but took the ring and sold it. I cried after it was all done, trying my best to remember that things aren’t what are important, but I guess it was still difficult for a teenager to understand. My mother held me as I cried, telling me how sorry she was, her embrace healing as it always was. I know that she always felt guilty, though I wish she hadn’t.
Years later, my mother gave me the beautiful cameo pin, and I have considered it to be priceless ever since. It was her way of giving me back my Granny’s ring in some small way, and it meant the world to me that she did that. I always wished that I had been able to give back to her all of the countless things she had to sell over the years to keep us in a home with food to eat and heat to warm us in the winter.
I will never know how Mom did it, how she was able to stay such a happy women when she had suffered through so much sadness and difficult times in her life; how she made such a happy childhood for me, one filled with so much laughter and love, no matter what she had to give up to make it happen. I hope she knew that I understood and appreciated what she did for me, even if it took years to pass before I could truly understand her sacrifice. She always did the best she could in every single situation I ever watched her go through, and I try my best to remember that as I live my life, to follow her example of choosing happiness. The cameo reminds me of it all yet again; we make our life what we want it to be, no matter how many or how few material things we may have. I won’t forget that. Thank you, Mom.