The Diamond Necklace
Published in ChicagoNo, September 21, 2016
My mother wore it until they took it from her in the hospital before she died. I remember when my grandmother received it. And now it’s mine.
Three generations of women have worn the necklace. My mother added a small stone to the bottom (now the middle). And I combined it with the stone my husband bought me for our 40th anniversary (now the top). So, yes, it’s pretty valuable, and I am careful about where I wear it.
Losing it would break my heart. When I wear it, the women who wore it before me are somehow with me. My grandmother, Alice Krut, came from a small shtetel called Dushat in Lithuania. I think her maiden name, Klavir, relates to music, and some of her family were klezmer musicians who played violin. They were very poor and had little to eat. Meals usually consisted of bread dipped into herring juice. When my grandmother came to America as a teenager in 1909, I’m sure she never dreamed she could own such an expensive and beautiful piece of jewelry. Somehow, my tailor grandfather’s thriftiness enabled him to save up for this necklace. My memory is that he presented it to her for their 50th anniversary.
When she died, she passed the necklace to my mother, Evelyn Levine. I write a lot about my mother and losing her in my book, Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real. She was the person who always encouraged me to write a book. And her death made me the family matriarch, so the necklace feels a bit like inheriting the crown jewels.
My mother was a loving and devoted daughter, parent, and grandparent. She had taken care of her immigrant mother’s needs all of her life, especially in the years after my grandfather’s death. Her love for her children growing up was unconditional and often expressed. That was her real gift to me. The necklace, like the Shalimar perfume she always wore, serves as a reminder of Mom. And wearing the necklace helps me to cope with losing her in April of 2015. The day after she died, I put on the necklace on and promised to try to emulate my mother’s example.
Three generations have shared one necklace. We have come a long way from the poverty and oppression of Dushat, Lithuania to a successful life in America. While I am not a particularly materialistic person, I value it not for its diamonds, but for its memories.