I take the hexagonal box down from the shelf and run my finger over the decorative stained glass panel. The colour has begun to peel; etched away by time and touch. Inside the wooden confines a vibrant rainbow of life shimmers out from red velveteen pockets and compartments speckled with dust.
I spy tiger’s eye and gold and coral and paste and ivory and lapis lazuli and agates from the Western Cape. There are rings and earrings and a couple of brooches, and a special hair clip that I wore as a child; all safely stowed away in Nana’s jewellery box.
Nana’s jewellery box brimming with the celebratory threads of her life, her treasure. The cherished place where secrets fell, tangled in silver and gold. A quiet place. A calm place. Save for all those memories and colours vying for the limelight.
Grazing the individual pieces with my finger; the gold knot earrings, the amethyst ring, I am transported back to the stories Nana told me as a young girl. From the top of Table Mountain and its airless misty scrub of heat and weeds, to the beach at Kalk Bay dancing with shells and late-afternoon swimmers; my Nana the lifeguard who swam with the sharks.
And then my eyes fall to the emerald earring.
Just one. It’s contours alive with it’s vibrant energy caught between leaves of gold. How sad to keep just one of a pair, the other mislaid, lost, stolen, gone. Where does it rest now? Is it equally preserved in a box of wooden calm; revered and clasped with grace and love?
Nana didn’t wear her jewels unless occasion demanded and I wonder just how many occasions she might have had. Back in the days when she was young and stayed out dancing to the Afrikaans music she called ‘tikkie driver’ and loved so much. When she wasn’t restricted by a cornucopia of medicines for blood pressure and angina and heart problems.
She loved green. I remember a green dress she had with huge white flowers on, and a pea-green raincoat she often wore. The emerald earrings would have set her face alight, contrasting with her bright white hair. I’m not sure now what her natural colour would have been.
She told me once that her hair turned white overnight when she heard the news that her mother had died days after she set sail for Southampton from Cape Town. She hadn’t known that anything was wrong. It would take too long to go back. She never got to say goodbye.
Emerald is fire, strength. The jewel of her jewels.
They say that stones take on the vibrations of their owners, be it pebbles on the beach or tumbled stones to semi-precious and precious stones. I wonder about the missing earring and if it was tossed aside or perhaps repurposed as a brooch.
The fire lives on, I’m sure, that fearless passion and light, the stone simply a conduit, a mirror for it’s surroundings.
My mind filled once again with thoughts of Table Mountain, and the ashes that were scattered from its airless heights, I restore the precious cargo of jewels, more precious and rich in memory than money could ever afford, to their neat red valleys and place Nana’s jewellery box back on its shelf.
This short story was inspired by the image of the emerald earring, taken by my ‘blog-buddy’ Karen who writes at Leaf & Petal. Read Karen’s corresponding post to see how the image inspired her.