Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Earring

The year I began 8th grade, the small country school I attended implemented a program whereby they decided to branch out and offer French, instead of Spanish, Home Ec was offered to boys, and the library was moved and enlarged by at least three times.

I loved the library, hated boys in Home Ec, and had never before heard French spoken. I spent the first 6 weeks in shock. I grew up learning to understand, but not speak, German. The two languages are drastically different. The French teacher was the oddest person I had ever encountered - up until I was 14 years old

The French teacher was old, probably at least 50. She was good natured, but did the strangest thing I'd ever seen anyone do. During class, as she was pronouncing words for us to mimic, the teacher would slowly walk up and down the aisles of desks as she tried to keep the class under some semblance of control. It was soon very apparent that she wore only one earring.

Both ears were pierced yet, day after day, she wore only the single earring. Weeks went by and the entire class (about 20 students) was dying to know if she’d lost the missing earring, or if she intentionally wore only one. We couldn’t imagine what would possess her to wear only one earring. Finally, someone asked her.

“You seem to have lost an earring,” the girl behind me innocently asked.

“Oh, I know,” was the reply.

Nothing else. I couldn’t understand why she would keep one earring of a set after losing the other. It made absolutely no sense.

A few weeks more went by and finally one of the boys got brave enough to say, “Mrs. Teacher, why are you wearing just one earring?” We all thought we were so smart and sat there smugly waiting for the answer.

“My husband gave me this earring and the other as a gift on a wedding anniversary 20 years ago, just before he died,” she said quietly and began to weep softly.

The room fell silent. Finally someone began to recite the French lesson and quietly, we all followed suit. It was a horrible day for us smarty pants kids.

I have kept a single earring of a set since I was 17. My mother gave them to me on my 16th birthday. They were my favorite, and I never took them out unless I cleaned them and then they went right back in. I couldn’t remember how one of them was lost; the remaining one I kept in a protected place, but out of sight. Every time I came across the earring accidently, I felt sad and didn’t know why. I even wondered why I’d keep it; after all, I couldn’t wear it.

Two weeks ago, I was shopping and saw a set of earrings very similar to the ones my mother had given me all those years ago. Seeing two earrings lying there together was a shock and hurtled me backwards in time to when I was 17 and raped. The memory of how I lost the missing earring was nothing if not earth shattering, but there it was and I remembered. I remembered when he grabbed my long hair and his finger pressed against the delicate hoop until it bent and opened. I remember the pain as it tore from the tiny hole in my earlobe, the open end of it dragging and scraping against my earlobe until it popped free.

I now understand why Mrs. Teacher kept and even wore her single earring. Whether good or bad, some things are so precious they cannot be left behind without destroying the sensitivity and emotion they provide. Good or bad, a single earring can be the bridge to a lifetime of memories, or can bridge a life of fractured memories.

I’m not quite ready to throw it away, yet, maybe never.

17 comments:

Grace said...

I'm not sure what to say, Ivory. I understand the sentiment...and the memory and the hanging onto things.
(((IVORY))))

castorgirl said...

I'm sorry Ivory...

fromthesamesky said...

Wow, what a moving post. Thanks for sharing this Ivory. Painful memories and yet in some ways precious too, (although not the way you lost your earring).

Michael Finley said...

In a perfect world I would learn how to be a jeweler and ask you if you wanted me to make a matching ear ring.

Ivory said...

Thanks, Grace - your support is comment enough. I appreciate you very much.


Castorgirl,
Thank you, too, your support is greatly valued, as well.


SameSky,
I'm honored that you found it moving. It is such a bittersweet memory now.


Michael, and I would ask you to make me one. Thanks.

lifemultiplied said...

Very profound!

Really like the new layout, btw :-)

Exhale said...

...powerful post. I am sorry for your pain, I am sorry you were raped. Your in my thoughts as you're processing this difficult event my hope is that this truth will bring a great deal of freedom to your heart. Maybe one day you can bring that single earring to the jeweler to make something whole.

jumpinginpuddles said...

im also thinking about half things not just earings this is such a good blog

Ivory said...

LifeMultiplied,
Thank you very much! Welcome to my blog!


Exhale,
I have found some sense of closure because I loved that pair of earrings and now, I know what happened to the missing one. Funny, but everytime I go to a jewelery store, I've looked for a matching set. Maybe I will have someone make me one!


JIP - I've been reading your blog recently, maybe that's what made me think of my earrings! I don't know.

The Beehive said...

This post is very powerful. It reminded me of the time my mom had gone on vacation (I don't remember where) and she was gone for about a week - which is a long time for a 5 year old kid. When she got back, she gave me a ring - it was made of ivory and I thought it was the most precious thing. The next day, my dad got upset with me for something I didn't do... He picked me up and slammed me against the wall. I felt the ring shatter and the tiny pieces cut into my hand. I was devastated but I kept the little pieces in a tissue paper and hid them in the bottom of my jewelry box. To this day, I still have those tiny pieces. I just can't seem to throw them away...

Shen said...

The first "real" jewelry I ever had was a pair of 18 karet gold earrings given to me by my husband, a year or so before we were married. I loved those earrings and wore them for years... until I lost one. I have always kept the lone earring and I sometimes still take it out to look at it.

By the way... 50 is not old :-)

Ivory said...

BeeHive,
Oh, I am so sorry that you experienced something so awful as abuse from your dad. Like my earings, your ring is a symbol of something wonderful and traumatic at the same time.


Shen,

:) My comment about Mrs. Teacher being old was because at that age, 50 was old to me. I'm older than that now and I hope that you still have your husband!

Paul from Mind Parts said...

Wow, this is really touching Ivory. I do hope you consider submitting this to the Blog Carnival this month.

I am sorry you lost the other earring in the way you did. And I'm glad you have kept the other as a bridge to your past.

therapydoc said...

What a nice story.

Thanks for your condolences and your comments. I really appreciate that you take the time to do that. Take care.

Ivory said...

Paul,
I will consider entering this story - if not this month, next. Thanks!


TherapyDoc,
Thank you for the compliment and I enjoy reading your posts, too. I can tell they are heart felt and the tone reminds me of my therapist.

VICKI IN AZ said...

Ivory this is a tender and painful story written with such exquisite simplicity. There is not one single wasted word. I am breathless and my ♥ is crying for you.

Journal of Healing said...

Ivory, this is so well-written. I am also sorry for your pain, sorry you were raped. It is amazing how such a small item can flash us back into a memory, isn't it?

Thanks for sharing.

ang