I promised a few weeks back to share with you the story of the godforsaken pearls.
As you may or may not know, I have three sisters. In an uncanny twist of blessed coincidence, we also have four cousins who are all girls as well. Our years of birth are proportionately staggered so that each cousin has a doppelganger cousin about the same age, except for the oldest and the youngest, who don’t have cousin-twins. But we still let them hang out with us.
All eight of us grew up in the same neighborhood and saw each-other often. The gaggle, in its entirety adds up to a total of eight grand-daughters bestowed upon the Grand lady herself, my grandmother, Margaret. In chronological order we go as follows: Julie, Meghan, Tiffany, Kerry, Molly, Shanna, Betsy, and Colleen. Let me emphasize that I am the SECOND OLDEST GRANDDAUGHTER.
Being the second granddaughter, one would assume that any coming-of-age gifts bestowed upon all eight granddaughters would come to me second. It is only right and just that it be so.
In the 1980’s, my grandmother Margaret went to China. When she returned she told us that she had picked up eight strings of pearls on her journey, and that in due time, we would each receive of one of them.
My sister Julie, the oldest granddaughter, received her pearls on her 16th Birthday. In fact, she was also taken to an extravagant lunch at the Woman’s Club (which was essentially a fancy sorority for old ladies who lunch). It was a big deal, apparently, to turn sixteen. I looked forward to my turn.
Two and a half years went by, and I eagerly awaited my sweet sixteen and the special days subsequent bestowal of the great and mysterious coming-of-age jewelry. My sixteenth birthday came and went with no mention of the pearls. I failed my drivers test. I had cake. We went up to the cabin. I was a bit disappointed, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, Grandma had a plan. I knew after all, that she had a necklace with my name on it. I was next in line. It was only a matter of time.
Or so I thought. Next came high school graduation. No Pearls. Not even a mention of them. I began to wonder if I had done something to offend Grandma.
I knew my parents had expressed concern on occasion, that they were raising a lost cause partying underachiever. I was pigeonholed as the family troublemaker at a very young age. My mother once asked me, point blank, if I did cocaine. COCAINE. I may have been a mainstay at our high school keggers, but a coke-head I was not. In fact, my friends would pass the little one-ie dugout pot smoking contraption right over me in the back seat when we drove around, skipping classes. I was sufficiently righteously indignant of the accusation.
Then I got to thinking. Had my parents misled Grandma into thinking I was some kind of a coke-snorting tramp? A coke-snorting tramp who didn’t deserve to have real pearls from China? I tried not to take the oversight personally, but try as I did, I couldn’t help but feel marginalized and judged unworthy. I plodded on into the college years. Pearl-less.
Time went by, and I grew to believe that my grandmother really did like me. In fact, she often seemed to like me a lot. Wasn’t I the one she jiggled her empty wine glass at? I can still hear her charm bracelet and silver bangles clanging as she wiggled her glass above her head, indicating it was time for me to fetch her a refill of white.
When we were on the dock, up at the cabin, wasn’t I the one she would prompt to go make her a sandwich? She sat on the end of the dock with her short legs swinging. Her small feet dangled just above the water, pants rolled up, and she would say: “Meggity. How would you like to go up and make me a nice roast beef sandwich on some of that good bread”. This was always issued as a statement, without the slightest lilt of a question at the end. The woman knew how to get things done, or rather, to get them done for her by peons.
I knew in my heart my grandmother Margaret liked me. She would say things like: “Meggity. You and I majored in the same thing in college: Having a good time.” Grandma knew how to have a good time. And being the kind of person who knew how to have a good time, she was good at recognizing the same quality in others. Grandma was also good at recognizing not only who made a good sandwich, but who was sucker enough to drop what they were doing and hop to it ASAP at her beck and call.
So my grandmother liked me. Yet, I was necklace-less.
Time rambled on, my younger cousin Kerry got her pearls for some milestone or another. And after that was Shanna. Then I think Molly got them on her 18th birthday. I can’t remember specifically how each presentation of the pearls went down, but I recall a Christmas incident in which the youngest grandkids got their pearls.
That left me. I had been overlooked, bypassed and snubbed.
I finally mustered up the nerve to ask what the frigging deal with the pearls was. It was at this point that I was given an ultimatum. You graduate from college, and you will get your pearls.
WHAT. THE. HELL?
Let me get this straight. Every other granddaughter in the family had to do nothing but either turn sixteen or graduate from high school (which, by this time, I had done 6 years prior). What was with the strings attached?
And then it occurred to me. No one thought I was going to graduate from college. Insult, meet injury. Get to know one another, because you are going to be spending lots of time together.
I have a chronic history of disorganization. I have left many a task unfinished. Several of my teachers had my hearing tested in elementary school because they suspected I was deaf. My hearing was, and is, perfect. I just tune out a lot, and to this day, I spend lots of quality time knocking around in my own head and staring off into space. You might say I have a touch of the ADD. I have always earned high test score, but I was chronically inconsistent when it came to assignments and papers. These qualities made my schooling a bit of a challenge, as did my waitressing job and the hours I spent at the bars with my friends.
Apparently my parents and my grandmother felt that if I couldn’t muster up the chutzpah to finish those pesky last few classes at the “U” myself, that the string of pearls already bequeathed to every sister and cousin on the planet might be just the carrot I needed to get my bachelors degree.
They thought wrong.
I did, eventually obtain my degree. A Bachelors of Science in Child Psychology and Business and Industry Education, in fact.
Contrary to the opinions of several family members, I did not complete my coursework so that I could finally get the godforsaken pearl necklace. By the time I finally finished college, I wanted to take that stupid freaking necklace my entire family seemed to be flinging around like some masochistic version of “pickle in the middle” and stomp on it with all my might. I completed my coursework because I wanted to a piece of paper to show for the 6 years I spent in college. I wanted my bachelor’s degree because I worked hard. I wanted something to show for it.
I did not tell anyone I had finished school for a long time. I did not walk through the graduation ceremony. I stewed in silence for a month or two, and cursed the pearl necklace and all it represented.
My grandmother, who I loved dearly despite the pearl debacle, got wind somehow that I had gotten my degree. She gave me the pearls, and I have since blocked from memory the likely awkward manner in which I received them. It’s difficult to feel gracious when receiving a gift that is tarnished with disappointment and misjudgment. I am certain I faked it pretty politely. And I was always crazy about her regardless.
Am I still bitter? Moi? Umm, yes….er….No…Okay, yes. I am bitter.
The only moral I can see in my sad story, is that if you want something, go out and get it for yourself. This is good advice, which I exercise often. A person can waste a lot of time waiting around for things to happen for them. In this case waiting = bitter, and bitter = BAD. Very Bad.
Life is short, and nothing sucks the joy out of receiving a gift more than waiting around too long for it. So go out and buy that pair of shoes. Hell, get the handbag too. You deserve it. Tell the sales clerk Margaret sent you. And while you’re up, think about gettingsomeone to make a sandwich for you on some of that good bread.