penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

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When I was a little girl, I was lucky enough to be shuttled back and forth between my two sets of grandparents during the summer. I was able to stay at one cottage or another – often for days and weeks at a time.

My father’s parents lived in their cottage six months of the year.  The rest of the time they lived in Florida. Their cottage was really a tiny half of a house, sitting on the beach of a very large, over-populated lake.

Most days we spent splashing around in the tepid water or making sand castles on the beach.  Sometimes we ran around with a gang of other kids around the same age – most of whom were related in that second cousin kind of way that is never really explained.

In the evening when the mosquitoes were buzzing or when it rained we were stuck inside the cottage.  It was small and the walls were covered in a dark panelling.  The furniture and curtains were either a brown or orange colour that was popular in the 70s.  The place was stuffed with objects to the point of claustrophobia with things my grandmother collected over the years.  When I look back, my grandmother was probably just this side of a hoarder – possibly on the other side as well some days.  She never just bought one of anything. She bought four of them – matching but in different colours.  She loved to craft – ceramics, needle point, doll making.  She kept all her square dancing outfits (and her husband’s too).  She had lamps, clocks, magazines and trashy novels galore.  A little bit of everything filled her house.

My favourite was a glass cabinet where she kept all the salt and pepper shakers she had collected over the years. There must have been hundreds of them.  She had them from all over the United States and Canada.  Many of them were designed as some kind of play on words or a theme. Quirky, kitschy matching seasoning.  To an adults eye, they were probably pretty tacky. To a child’s eye, they looked like magic, and I dreamed of one day owing a similar collection.

As I became older though, the cottage began to be difficult to visit.  It seemed to shrink each time we stayed.  There was less to do.  Building sand castles and hanging with cousins soon lost their charm.  I would go for longer walks up the beach and up the road, and as a teenager, probably looking for trouble.

My grandmother had a mischievous spirit. When she was a young girl, she hopped on the back of my grandfather’s motorcycle and never looked back.  Legend says that she was a party girl.  She loved to argue (even when she knew she was wrong).  She gossiped about everyone and everything that moved up and down the beach.  She put Bailey’s in my coffee when no one was looking.  She told me I had better “try out” my boyfriends before marrying them. She dressed in loud clothing that were inappropriate for her age, and on one memorable day when she was in her 70s, did cart wheels – just to show that she could.  When she was 90 I asked her want she wanted for her anniversary, and she shrewdly looked at her husband and said “A divorce!”

One day in my early teens, she told me to be quiet, then ushered me over to a chest of drawers she had in one corner. She opened the top drawer and started to pull out jewelry boxes.  They were filled with sparkly rings.  There were so many of them, gold and filled with diamonds.  Some seemed to be identical.  She told me that she had bought some rings with real diamonds. Others were fakes that she wore on a daily basis.  But, she whispered, “Sometimes, I can’t tell the difference anymore.”

This year, when my mom died, her boxes of jewelry made their way into our house.  Some of them, I knew, came from my two grandmothers.  There is a lot of costume jewelry – some of it lovely, some of it fun, and some of it a bit over the top.  A few rings were among the collection. And among these, some covered in diamonds.  One or two are real knuckle dusters.  They could be fake – filled with crystals.  Or they could be real. Who knows? To my untrained eye, I honestly can’t tell.  I just know that they are spectacularly, eye blisteringly sparkly.  Either way, there is no point in keeping them locked up in the drawer – they are so clearly meant to be seen. So I have started wearing them.  To remember my stylish, over the top, never back down, no holds barred grandmother.  Whether the diamonds are real or not, they help me to channel her spirit and her personality when I need a little extra chutzpah to get through the day.


Written by pennyinacastle

March 16, 2015 at 1:45 am

Posted in Random thoughts

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