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SPARK » Lené Gary and Sylvia Light

Lené Gary and Sylvia Light

Lené Gary
between the steps
Response

From Manasquan with love
By Sylvia Light

Inspiration Piece

I was happy, and walking a little more quickly than usual, because we had just arrived in Manasquan to pick up my son Lee after he had spent a week with his grandma at a beachfront house. I knew Lee had had a wonderful week. At eight years old, this was his idea of a perfect vacation. But I was a little homesick for him.

As I rounded the corner of the house and headed up the back steps, the screen door flew open and there was my boy, his blue eyes glowing bright against his sun-burned face. In fact his whole body seemed to glow with the deep red-pink-tan he picked up at the shore. “Here, Mom, this is for you,” he said, quickly slipping a shiny chain around my neck. “Thank you!” I grinned, barely looking at it, and grabbing a hug  before he was off into the house. I thought again how you see your children differently after even a short time apart. Of course he really did look different; his blonde hair lighter and his body darker from long hours in the sun, sand and waves.

There was the usual hubbub at the beach house as we made our way in.  In-laws and their various children called hellos and Grandma Hutchinson was puttering in the small kitchen, where a mound of just-picked Jersey corn and home-grown tomatoes of every size and shape were laid out on the dish drainer. The smells of raw hamburger and sliced onions announced the rest of the dinner menu. I looked for a place to put our contribution, 72 squares of Rice Krispie Treats, traveling neatly in Tupperware.

When we finally got all the food on the table and some thirteen big and small people in mis-matched chairs around it, my sister-in-law Gloria admired my new necklace.

“Thank you,” I said, smiling at Lee. “Did you get this with Ski-Ball tickets, honey?”

“Oh, come on,” said Gloria, laughing. “That’s a heavy necklace. It looks like real gold.”

I looked at it again. Smooth interlocked links that lay flat against my skin and conducted the warmth of my body. A rich gold color. It did feel a lot heavier than the ones in the Ski-Ball arcade prize cases.

Grandma and Aunt Judy were bubbling with the story. It turned out that Lee had found the necklace half-buried in the sand on the beach. They turned it in to the local police station, where it stayed for a few days. But when nobody claimed it, the police allowed that Lee could have it. It was clear from everybody chiming in that this was the event of the week.

Lee didn’t say much, but smiled at me and looked pretty proud of himself.

“Look at this clasp,” Gloria said. “No wonder somebody lost it. You should take it to a jeweler, have it checked out.”

As a rule, I don’t like expensive jewelry. Give me chunky costume jewelry and stuff made of wood and seeds and glass beads. Gold and silver are pretty too, but I ’m happy with the inexpensive lines you can get in Penny’s and

K-Mart. No great tragedy if you lose an earring (which I readily do), and easy to replace.

But I did take my beach treasure to our local jeweler in Hightstown, who pronounced it real gold, worth about $350, probably a man’s chain and well worth the eight dollars for a new clasp.

The necklace became a star performer in my wardrobe. It classed up just about any outfit I put it with.  The length was just right. The links were strong and smooth, didn’t get caught on things and didn’t get bent out of shape.

Years went by, things changed in my life, and there came a time when I was very unhappy at work. I was anxious and depressed, especially when I first got up. On more than one morning, stalled in this depression, I remember seeing the gold chain in my jewelry box. It reminded  me of a son who loved me. I drew it out, thinking, what can I wear with this necklace today? As I put it around my neck, it felt like a kind of amulet, a shield against whatever ugliness, anger and pain I would encounter in the day.

I am in a much better place in my life now, but the necklace still retains some magic for me. An unexpected gift of great price, bestowed on me with such innocent pleasure and pride by my son. I was thinking the other day that I would like to wear it when I die and am burned or buried. An amulet for the most unknowable journey I will make.

—-

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