As a child, nothing held mystery like my mother’s dresser drawers. They housed finery only a grown woman possessed. In the top drawer, the one she opened when dressing to go somewhere very fancy my one ‘real’ piece of jewelry, a golden bangle, lay safely in its square white box. My paternal grandmother passed the heirloom on to me, as the first Miss Donovan, while I was still a young child and while she was still very much alive, although long a widow. 

 I positioned myself on the edge of her bed on tiptoes to peer in to my mother’s top, practically inaccessible drawer to see her jewelry, sparkling with bright stones, all stored in cloth bags, small blue boxes or arranged on flat gray felt trays. My bangle was rolled out during special evenings and while my mother dressed I played pretend with the gold round on my wrist. My hand slid easily in but without making a big fist, the bangle would simply fall off. Etched into the gold were my grandmother’s initials R D in an elaborate scroll, bordered by floral embellishments. I never thought of my grandmother as having a name other that Grandma so the foreignness of this ‘Rita Donovan,’ the exotic RD, added to the mystic of my bangle. 
 Bouncing slightly on my parents’ broad bed I asked, “Why would Grandma part with her treasure?”
“Her hands are too big to fit through…” and almost absentmindedly as she made her lips redder then fastened a necklace she added, “Your grandmother has no use for good jewelry anymore.” 
 I could not understand how anyone’s hands could be that big; at the time I was certain both of mine would fit through the opening. There was a small tab on the side, which if pressed, would open a hinge, but apparently that no longer worked, and “Besides,” repeated my mother, “she has no use for something so nice.” Having this golden amulet sit dormant in a box in my mother’s drawer did not seem like ‘use’ to me, but it was my one claim in the drawer filled with eclectic and brilliant objects so I did not belabor the point.
Eventually I lost interest in watching my mother dress for her fancy parties, having developed rituals of my own. My small pots of blue eye shadow and peachy cream blush, my own matching lingerie, even my own small cloth bag of stockings lay in my top drawer along side the knee socks that matched my school uniform. I believe I forgot that bangle even existed.
And then I simply fell into a time period when no one would trust me with a wooden nickel never mind a golden family object. However, the bangle mattered not at all. In fact, there was nothing in my mother’s top drawer that sparkled for me; everything represented what I ran from, like the whole notion of a heirloom and the responsibility that came along with owning one. Besides, I preferred no adornment. I ran in fields, braided buttercups into my hair, my feet muddy and tough were no place for a stocking to slide over.
But, like a curve, the significance of many objects returned, and the white square box was handed to me, and the shine of the bangle looked dazzling all over again. 
With my first born, a baby son resting on my hip, I slid my hand through the gold broad band and saw on my own wrist a touch of the grown-up world I now imbibed wholly. My mother suggested I could keep the bangle for fancy dress-up nights but those still were not within my sphere so for a few more years my bangle stayed in her top drawer.
After my daughter was born I realized I could bring the bangle safely back to my own dresser and gave myself the freedom to add this now priceless band to the other trinkets I slid up my arm. The sound of them colliding when I moved about made me feel like having clean feet, wearing stockings, twisting my hair up, and letting my own intimate wear have a more prominent place in my top drawer.

7 thoughts on “Heirlooms

  1. Good post, Moira. It was nice to read about Grandma and her bracelet and how it made its way to you. Great lineage for that bracelet, wasn’t it!
    Thank you for sharing your memories with us.


  2. Moira, I just came across your blog – I love it. This article reminded me of the smell of my Grandmother’s bathroom which I love to think about.. I think it was basically something similar to baby powder and it reminded me of my Grandmother’s flower towels in that bathroom and her red tile on the floor. My sisters have some of my Grandmother’s old flower towels and I love to use them. Your memories and reflections of that bangle made me smile thinking about the cyclical nature of life!! I can’t wait to read more of your articles/reflections. I love this site. It is so user friendly! 🙂


  3. Heirlooms are the best. PRICELESS. Absolutely priceless. I own one of my grandmothers earlier sewing machine tables – she was a seamstress. I am a dreamer, hoping to utilize it someday. (-: Thanks for sharing such an awesome post. )))HUGS(((


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