Posted by: CeCe | May 2, 2012

Learning to embrace the bittersweet

Yesterday, a friend of mine came over to interview me for a project she’s doing for school on items of sentimental value and what we choose to hold onto.  One of my most treasured items happens to be a necklace which belonged to my grandma (who died when I was three), and which belonged to my mom and was passed to me almost three years ago when my mom passed away.  I still remember the first time I ever saw it; I was probably about seven, though I may have been younger than that, and my mom and I were going through her jewelry.  I happened to see this beautiful purple velvet case, and I wanted to know what was in it.  So my mom very gently lifted it out of the compartment in which it was resting, and opened it to show me the treasure within.  It was–and still is– quite possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry I’ve ever seen, not because it is ostentatious or overly fancy, but because it’s so simple and elegant.  It is a pendant of Austrian crystal, set within sterling silver filigree, with a delicate sterling silver chain.  I was immediately smitten, and wanted it right then and there.

My mom explained to me that it was very old, purchased around 1930, and that I wasn’t ready to have it yet, but if I still wanted it when I was older, it could be mine.  Over the years, I would ask her to bring it out so I could look at it, and I would gently handle it and then reluctantly allow her to put it back in its beautiful velvet box, which belonged in the cabinet where she kept all of her jewelry.  The thought of ever taking it from the box without permission never even crossed my mind.  Even in my impetuous youth, I knew that this necklace was something special, and the thought of any harm coming to it actually causes me physical discomfort.  The most I would ever do was sneak into my parents’ room to look at it.

At certain stages of my life, I was allowed the privilege of wearing the necklace: To my 8th grade graduation, to my first school dance (Homecoming, freshman year), to see The Nutcracker ballet, to Homecoming sophomore, junior, and senior year, to prom, and to my wedding.  Finally, on a hot June day in 2009, just after my mom had passed away, my sister handed me a purple velvet box without a word.  I immediately went in the bathroom, took off the necklace I had been wearing, and replaced it with the Austrian crystal necklace.  I still wear it almost every day.

For me, the necklace is a way of keeping two women whom I’ve loved and lost close to my heart.  While I don’t remember much about my grandmother, I do remember that I loved her very much, and that when my grandpa died and she was hurting so horribly there was nothing the 14 month old me wanted to do more than comfort her and make her smile again.  I also remember that when I was staying with her and I had a nightmare, I was immediately soothed when she came into the room, lifted me out of the playpen, and held me close.  And my mom, whom I’ve written many things about already, was my best friend and meant the world to me.

During the lonely months I spent in Germany away from my family after my mom died, awaiting the military to finally send us home, that necklace helped bring me the strength I so needed to deal with my isolation and grief.  I felt like my mom and grandmother were still with me somehow.  I still feel like that sometimes.

I think we all need something to hold the bittersweet close.  Even if it hurts, and oh it does, we need it, so that we never forget those we’ve loved and lost.  I know that I hold my memories of my grandmother and mother as close to my heart as the necklace.


  1. Good work, CeCe! I shed a couple of tears toward the end of reading this post. I think your words are quite visual and resonate many ideas that all of use think about, some time or another. Keep it up! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Sandie. That really means a lot. 🙂

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