What I Learned When My Movers Lost All My Grandmother's Jewelry

“It’s not here,” I told my boyfriend, while frantically tossing books, throw pillows, and other odds and ends to my side. “I don’t think that box made it.”

We had just moved from Southern California to Brooklyn, and the movers had finally arrived with our things. The entire process had been haphazard: They’d arrived at our place on the hottest day of August, greeted by our anxious, barking dogs; I learned that day that they didn't accept cards or checks, and had to run to the bank for cash. They didn’t have an organized system for delivering our items, either, and our 90-some boxes and pieces of furniture were piled in corners and closets, with no way to properly check that everything that was ours had made it, or that everything that had made it was indeed ours.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
With each box I unpacked, my heart sank further. We had driven across the country with the plan of meeting our things on the other side, and had packed most of the essential items in the car, with one very valuable exclusion — all of my jewelry.

The thing is, I've never been much of a jewelry person. If I wear any accessories, I do so sparingly. However, thanks to my grandmother, Rho Rho, my jewelry collection was not lacking in the slightest. I am her only female grandchild, and as such, I have profited greatly. She gave me all her favorite vintage trinkets, some of which were likely valuable, some of which were just valuable to me. Though many of them were not a style I would have necessarily picked out for myself, they transcended personal preference. They had embedded in them family history, and I wore them proudly.

I still remember her wearing some of these pieces, pieces I had hoped to pass on to my kids someday. There was a sterling ring with an amethyst stone, for example; I have a vivid memory of her in the kitchen, thoughtfully twirling it around her finger before taking it off to get her hands dirty with a batch of her famous double-chocolate brownies. Another was of her laughing in her turquoise studded earrings — a style I never used to wear, but have adopted as my own in recent years over the longer dangly earrings I once preferred. The piece I'll miss perhaps most of all, though, is her old wedding ring. Its diamond had long since fallen out once it became mine, and all that remained was the band and empty setting. But the inscription from my grandfather, Pop Pop, and the date of their wedding was still inside, and I often wore it either on my ring finger or chained around my neck.

I had always loved the idea that my jewelry collection was rich with love and history; that the rings I wore on my fingers were tokens of love from my grandfather to my grandmother, or things my grandmother bought herself as souvenirs on family vacations when my mother was just a girl. The bond I share with my grandmother has always felt indelible, and while I don't necessarily consider myself a materialistic person, I liked having these physical symbols of our relationship.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
On the night I realized the jewelry was missing, I called my mother, sobbing. I was afraid she'd be mad at me — that she'd be furious I had lost her mother's jewelry. I was afraid she would tell me I should have packed them in the car with me, something I was already kicking myself for. Instead, she told me about the time she lost her wedding ring in Arizona. She also told me about the time my father lost his father's engraved watch. While I cried, 3,000 miles away, we talked about loss and material things, and how things, as part of their nature, have a way of getting misplaced that we just can’t control, but the memories we make with those things remain. She also made me laugh when she told me that she was excited to help me rebuild my own collection — she's much more of a jewelry person than I am.

When I got off the phone, I realized that I hadn’t thought about those memories in a long time — about making brownies in my grandmother's old kitchen in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, or the time she told me how she and Pop Pop got engaged only a few short months after meeting. And while the jewelry itself had become a part of my routine, I hadn’t actively thought about what it actually meant for a while. The loss of my collection had opened a floodgate that allowed me to remember, and that night I cried in the shower, thinking about every piece I would miss dearly and what it represented. While it hurt, it was also cathartic. I decided to rebuild, to move forward and intentionally create a collection of beautiful and meaningful jewelry that I could tell my children and grandchildren about.

A few weeks later, while still unpacking (it's a process!), I reached in the pocket of a purse and found one of my grandmother's rings that had managed to make the journey with me. I now wear it every day as a reminder — as a sign that even when we make mistakes, we should still be gentle with ourselves; that good can come of loss.

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