Anita's Pearl Necklace

After reading Anita Thornton's keepsake story, I found myself back in time in my own childhood. My family wasn't poor, but we were part of the single-income, struggling lower middle class for a while. My brother, sister, and I shared a small bedroom in a neighborhood full of tiny dwellings on streets with names like McArthur, Arnold, Diggs, and Tinker. For several years, my parents shared one car—an old Ford sedan that refused to crank sometimes. The three of us walked to school with lunch boxes (and brown paper sacks) containing cheap sandwiches made from white Sunbeam bread and a layer of peanut butter or a slice of bologna.  We wore faded, hand-me-down clothes passed to us from our older cousins.

For Anita Thornton, a strand of pearls contains powerful memories.

For Anita Thornton, a strand of pearls contains powerful memories.

And we seldom ate out because eating out was an expensive endeavor. But at the end of football season every year, my family would attend a banquet at a place called the Hof-Brau on North Davis Drive. It was one of those restaurants where the staff would grill you a juicy steak or a hamburger while you waited and serve it to you with a baked potato. I remember one glass display case full of jiggling jello squares in red, green, and yellow—I was in heaven. For me, going to the Hof-Brau was like fine dining at Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Like Anita, I often reflect on my parents' many sacrifices while they saved up pennies, nickels, and dimes to raise the three of us hooligans and send us to college. And so, I love Anita's story about the strand of pearls.

I read one time that it can take an oyster up to twenty years to form a pearl—about the same amount of time it takes to raise a child. And so, the gift Anita's mom gave her at graduation was simply perfection.

Enjoy Anita's story.

An elegant strand of pearls holds powerful bittersweet memories for me.

My parents divorced as I finished fifth grade. My mom, in her early thirties, faced the daunting task of being primary caregiver and breadwinner for four children. She worked hard to provide our basic needs; but, there were rarely extras. It was always a source of pride for my mom that she was able to manage without any form of public assistance.

I attended elementary school in a rural community. I never noticed a dividing line between the haves and have nots. We may have all been have nots, or perhaps it just did not matter at that age.

Then, came high school. As my circle grew and I had more affluent friends, the difference became painfully obvious. My mom has told me she could remember me coming home mad because we were so poor.

For my college graduation, my mother gave me a beautiful pearl necklace. I wore the necklace proudly in my early career days. As trends go, pearls fell out of vogue, and I tucked my necklace away.

My mom passed away almost ten years ago. Recently, I came across the necklace. Instantly, memories flooded my mind... I thought about our hard times and being a parent now, and I recognize my mother’s sacrifice to give me such an expensive gift.

While I do not know the monetary value of my necklace, the memories and the love I feel when I place it on my neck are priceless.
— Anita Thornton 2014
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Anita Thornton is a native of Murray County, Georgia. She's worked at carpet king, Shaw Industries for over thirty years. She's an active community volunteer. And she's a writer—a really wonderful writer. 

To read other stories about keepsakes and the memories they hold, please purchase a signed copy of Project Keepsake. It's on sale now with no shipping and handling charges. And by the way, it's a great Christmas gift for a loved one, especially when paired with a keepsake.

And if you live in Northwest Georgia, buy from one of these small businesses—Dave & Pauli's Art Emporium in Dalton, Cottage Treasures in Ringgold, Blue Willow Antiques in Cave Spring, The Lighthouse in Calhoun, the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun, or A Gift of Season in Calhoun.

And as always, I know you have a keepsake. Please share your keepsake story with me. Everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell. Keep storytelling alive, my friends.