This story is about my Nan, but not exactly, it’s about a pair of earrings that were given to me after she died. She was born in another time, 1905 to be exact, in hot and dry Narrandera in New South Wales, Australia. I heard many fascinating stories of her childhood, riding around in a horse and cart, watching the silent movie matinee of a Saturday. She was her dad’s little helper, and he called her ‘Jacko’. But, she ended up leaving school early and got a job in a factory. She was excellent at ‘piece work’ where she was paid by the piece for how much work she did. Closing the tops of socks was her speciality and she made her living doing that for her whole life. She was a really funny lady, with a quick wit and she loved everyone, and everyone loved her. She was also beautiful and many people thought she was many years younger than she actually was. Her mother was also apparently a lovely, wonderful woman, who really loved her children. She had died when my Nan was only 6, I can’t imagine the heartbreak. She died of heart trouble, something we could have likely now cured. At 96, my Nan had still kept the purse her mother had used on the day she died, with the last coins left in it. These things are amazing, falling apart, worn, and so precious to us also, simply for the fact my grandmother kept them.
I always wondered why she kept the coins and purse, and not a piece of jewellery, perhaps a child’s mistaken belief that her mother may come back and need her purse? After her mother had died, my Nan had been looked after mostly by her eldest sister Elsie. She had another sister I heard a lot about growing up, Ivy. She was a strong, independent woman with an opinion about most things. I also heard she could be a bit of a trouble maker, but my Nan adored her. They were very, very close. I can only imagine how devastating it must have been to then lose Ivy later on, before her time. They were united in their dislike of their step mother, who was everything unpleasant you would think and more.
But, back to the earrings……..
“I’ll come back and visit if I can” …
My Nan had made this promise to me before she died. I did dream about her, and sometimes saw other little old ladies that reminded me of her, or would think of her when making her favourite dinner – lamb chops and mashed veggies. When her funeral was over, and the goodbyes said, my mum was going through my Nan’s things and had given me a large container of costume jewellery. There were brooches and screw on earrings, plastic beads, and lots of stylish items, collected throughout her life. There were strands of pearls, real and fake, cool 1960’s glasses that I started wearing after having them changed to my own prescription, lots of necklaces and jewellery. Broken items, kept with the intention of having them repaired one day.
And then, there was a small box, covered in exquisite slices of opal, now so old the opal slices were falling off. I picked it up expecting to find another gloriously large fake jewellery ring to wear. Instead, in the red velvet lined interior, there was a small and yellowing obituary notice, along with a pair of beautiful luminous green earrings.
The obituary read :
“The relatives and friends of the late IVY XXXX XXX of Lot XX, XXXXXX Cresent, XXXXX, are invited to attend her funeral to leave the Metropolitan Funeral Home, corner of Princes Highway and Beatie Street, Rockdale this day after service commencing at 3pm., for the Eastern Suburbs Crematorium, Metropolitan Burial and Cremation Society, Rockdale LX6066.”
Of course, they are from my Nan’s sister, Ivy. I have so many questions now! First I wonder how she got the earrings, what they are made of, I wonder why she kept this obituary? Her husband had also died, she didn’t keep anything about that, her father and her other siblings. This sister must have been very special to her. So I kept them, the pair of luminous glistening green studded earrings, hidden in a jewellery box, preserved for posterity.
Until one day
For some reason I had an strong desire to wear them. Perhaps I had some Ivy in me too. I would wear a lot of my Nan’s jewellery, and she had always been the type to be practical, she would have said something irreverent like ‘well I’m not going to wear it, so if you want to, go ahead’. At the time this happened, I was young and studying at University, pretty poor, I likely wanted to look interesting, feel a bit glamorous. I remember it was a sunny day, the day I wore them, and I remember thinking that if the light shines through these earrings it will look amazing, maybe even bring out some of the green in my eyes.
I put them on at the last minute before I left. I think I was wearing a black and blue outfit with these earrings, a bright spot of colour, likely everyone will notice these amazing earrings. I left for the train at my usual time, went to the station, and for some reason, I missed the train. Odd, I thought. I wait for the next train, reading a big heavy text book from the library, soon the train arrives, I’m back on track and on my way to class. Oh the sun! I catch a glimpse of myself in the window of the train, but I can’t see the earrings in the reflection. I’m disappointed they aren’t making more of an impact.
When I arrive at University, I go up to my classroom, a few minutes late but nothing too bad. The door is locked. I look around at other classrooms, maybe I have the wrong room. I go to the administration desk, double checking everything. Finally I find out that the class has been cancelled and there is nothing on that day. So the day is getting hotter, typical Melbourne weather, that you need several outfits in one day.
‘You shouldn’t have worn the earrings’
Now, I don’t hear voices in general, it’s not something that happens to me, but I thought I heard someone say this to me. I thought I heard them tell me clearly in my left ear, that I shouldn’t have worn the earrings. It was so clear, I turned my head in that direction. I missed the train this morning, for no reason, my class was cancelled, and now, I’ve just realised I didn’t have my text book with me. I retrace my steps, that was $90 that text book, and now it’s missing. Everywhere I have been I look, and then I think, maybe it’s back at the station I came in from. So I go back there. In those days there was a staffed train station, but by the time I get there, there was no one there, and no text book. Swirling in my head is the thought about the earrings, that I shouldn’t have worn them. I think I hear my grandmother say ‘it’s not me who’s upset you are wearing them, it’s Ivy.’ All the way home I feel like they are burning a hole in my ear, that they are on fire, the day is getting hotter, I’m walking in heavy clothes and the phrase ringing in my ears ‘you shouldn’t have worn the earrings’ is tormenting me. I feel like she’s chasing me down the street to my front door.
I didn’t know Ivy, I only knew my grandmother. Ivy I heard was a trouble maker, this usually appeals to me as a character trait, I like a wonderful conversation with an energised mind. Was this her playing havoc with me, changing the train times, class dates, tricking me. Was she angry I had worn them. I felt like she was. Finally I got home to the old art deco flat I lived in. I sat down on the bed, the jewellery box in front of me. I took out the right earring and put that back in the box. As I take the left earring out, it falls to the floor, and I can’t see it. I turn the light on and search and search for this earring for about an hour. But I can’t find it, I never found it before I moved out of that flat, and I still haven’t found it, 12 years later…….
I also never found the text book. I felt I had encroached on a relationship that I shouldn’t have and that I had been taught that in no uncertain terms. I have only recently told my mum about this. She said she didn’t remember giving me the earrings and didn’t know I had them. I think like me, she is very disappointed that I lost one, but I blame Ivy………