Grieving Through My Earrings

My earring collection caught my eye today when I was sorting laundry. It’s pretty extensive, and it’s also pretty. A particular pair of gold squares with asymetrical silver cross pieces and blue stones struck me. Like most of my earrings they were a gift, and while trying to remember when my mother gave me those earrings (they look like something she would have chosen), I realized they were in fact a gift from my spouse, the most recent earrings she has given me in our twenty four years together.

I first got my ears pierced with my best friend when I was eleven years old. Her mother took us to a jewelry store where they used the combination piercer/earring inserter that sounds just like a hole punch you’d use on paper. When I was eighteen, my older sister decided she finally wanted to get her ears pierced and I went along for moral support. That jewelry store was having a “buy two, get one free” piercing sale, and my sister only wanted the conventional two earrings, one per ear, so I used the free one to get a second hole in my left ear. A few years later at college, I got a third hole in my left ear from a friend in my apartment one night. I had one of my old pointy starter earrings, and he had ice and a history of piercing his own ears (I think he was up to 17 holes total by then), so he iced me up and stuck the earring through my earlobe. I remain intrigued by the fact that that is the only one of my 4 earring holes that has never had been infected.

For my whole life I have never been fashionable, knowledgeable about fashion, or really even dimly aware of what’s fashionable. I lean towards jeans and t-shirts, or very plain colors. A lot of black. A lot of blue. A lot of sage (to the point that my spouse once gently took a shirt out of my hands in a store and, hanging it back on the rack, said “I think we have enough sage”). I have always tended to match pieces by color and not so much by print. I might get away with wearing a paisley shirt with a similarly toned flowered skirt now – I am 50, and I could call it “power clashing” – but when I was in the sixth grade that outfit was not a winner among my peers.

What I have always done is accessorize interestingly with earrings. I may be wearing jeans and a plain sage shirt, but if you add in dangly purple-shading-to-pink titanium flamingos, you stand out just enough. I have a pair of broccoli earrings that my mother gave me during a period when mostly what I wanted to eat was broccoli, and I used to wear them almost as often as I ate the broccoli. My earrings are weird, beautiful, and funny, and sometimes all three at once. For decades now I have worn only tiny diamonds with gold posts in my two auxiliary holes, but my two original piercings have displayed the full variety of my earring collection.

Earrings are a great fall-back gift idea for anyone with pierced ears. I have been given many earrings over the years. There’s a wonderful book called Love, Loss, and What I Wore that is a memoir told through the outfits that the author wore for different events in her life. For me, earrings tell a story like that, only more to do with the people who gave me the earrings. One of my many inaccurate beliefs about relationships used to be that if someone knew how to pick earrings for me, it showed we were meant to be together. Lapses like that aside, earrings and memories of the friends who gave them to me are inextricably linked. And I have had no more prolific giver-of-earrings than my mother.

It is twelve years since my mother died. For the first few years after her death I rotated between a pair of subtly unmatched diamonds she once gave me that were made from two rings inherited from family members, and the first pair of earrings I bought for myself after she died. I had had the diamonds for close to twenty years, and somehow lost one of them. Perhaps down the shower drain; I never knew. I was upset, but not as much as I expected. It seemed somehow logical that the time for those earrings was past. Since then I have rarely worn earrings, aside from my two tiny auxiliary diamonds in my left ear, which never come out. My ears started to get infected when I did put on earrings, and I just drifted into not bothering.

Late this past summer I bought myself another pair of tiny diamonds with gold posts. I now wear them, along with my other two, all the time, day and night. Every so often I check to see if they are there, but mostly I don’t think about them. I viewed this as my first step toward becoming a wearer of earrings again. A way to reaccustom my ears, and my heart, to the idea.

That was several months ago, and today, my earring collection caught my eye. It is dusty, and many of the earrings are tarnished, but the gold and silver and blue of the earrings from my spouse shone an invitation. I think that after twelve years I am ready to go through them all again, deciding which to keep, cleaning and shining and sitting with the memories as I go.groovy

3 thoughts on “Grieving Through My Earrings

  1. You have no idea how much I relate to this! I got my ears pierced at 18, and an auxiliary one a few years later when my guy friend only wanted one ear pierced, so I took the other one. I have also grown out of the habit of wearing them for years, and part of me misses it. The times I’ve tried again, my ears got infected, and I gave up. This makes me want to try again.

    I’m so happy you had this experience, and are wearing something meaningful to you again. I definitely believe a less than flashy outfit can be enhanced with broccoli or flamingo or otherwise flashy earrings. You’re already a unique person, and this only displays that in a physical way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love to hear that. My favorite thing about having others read my writing (which still gives me a little heart flutter) is hearing other people who share the experience or for reasons of their own relate to it.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog entry about your earring collection and why it is very meaningful for you. I got my ears pierced for my 16 th birthday in 1966. They were pierced by the pediatrician I had at the time. He used that gun like device that performed well on the first ear, but malfunctioned on the second. The doctor could not get the machine to disengage from the earring. It became painful, as he spent a lot of time jerking the darn thing around. Eventually, he was successful and I was spared the humiliation of wearing a piercing gun to school for who knows how long! THe next year, the doctor told me that mine were the last ears he had pierced….never again. Once I was allowed to take out the piercers, I put on a pair of jade earrings that I still own today..more than 50 years later. As one who gravitates to sage and other shades of green, they are well used.
    Tessa, for me, earrings have special meaning and memories when they have been gifts or inherited. One pair I adore are gems that my mother mined in N.C. and then in a lapidary class, prepared them to be ready for a jeweler to set in a stunning gold design. Another pair I treasure were originally gold cufflinks of an art nouveau style with a diamond in the center. They belonged to my maternal grandfather. My mother had them made into pierced earrings without altering the cufflinks. SHe wore them often. After her death, I inherited them. I treasure these, because I was born on the same day as my grandfather, but unfortunately, six years after he died.
    Sent from my iPad

    Sent from my iPad

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