In 1947 John Steinbeck wrote a very famous novel titled The Pearl that didn’t end well for the people who found a pearl. Our family had such a find too, but we fared better with it than the people in the Steinbeck novel.
Grandad, Herbert Coats, fished and hunted the Black River near his home in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in the first half of the 1900s, probably before Steinbeck wrote his novel. Grandad often came home with a stringer of catfish to feed his large family. I’m sure he often sat in the sun idly waiting for the bobber to go under so he could pull in the fish. On the banks of the river washed up mollusks or mussel shells and I imagine him prying one open with a pocketknife now and then. I don’t know what he did with the shells or the meat inside, but at least twice he found freshwater pearls in those mussels. He took them home and gave them to my grandmother. She kept them in a tiny Ex-Lax box wrapped in tissue paper in her dresser drawer. As kids we often begged to see them. When she died, my mom, took the box home with her. She had the pearls set in a ring and wore it most of her life. When my mom became ill with Cancer, she gave the ring to me and told me the story though I had heard it many times. I wear that ring often and it will go to my daughter, at my death. The ring and the story will live on.
Yesterday, I gave my daughter her great-grandmother’s bedroom suite. Yes, the same dresser that held the ring when I was a child. It is beautiful furniture built in the 1920s or 1930s. My mother and father bought it used when they were first married and then gave it to my grandparents when they bought something else. They slept on it for many years. My mother then took it home at my grandmother’s death. I inherited it, now my daughter has it.
My cousins and I published a memoir of our grandmother’s recipes, and memories of our time spent at her house. It was a great way for us to keep those memories alive, like the ring and the bedroom suite. My grandparents had little money, but they had love for their friends and family. By passing down rings and furniture we can keep their memory and maybe their love for their fellow man alive.
What are you reading/writing this week?