Antique Childhood

The Pearl Necklace

I was going through a box of jewelry the other day when I came across a matching set of pearl earrings and a single pearl drop necklace that I had stashed away years ago.   I realized, as I pulled them from their velvet hiding place, that I have had them for 30 years.  How could that be? I don’t even think of myself as being 30-years-old.


I ran my fingers along the delicate silver chain of the necklace.  I pulled up my hair and fastened the clasp behind my neck.  I put on the earrings and looked in the mirror.  I turned my head from side to side.  The small pinkish pearl orbs were as pretty as the day I first laid eyes on them, even if I was not.  They were a gift from my high school sweetheart Bob, with whom I was madly in love and dated for several years.  He had worked all winter chopping and selling firewood to buy them for me for my 18th birthday. 


It was some years later, after we had both moved on with our lives, that I realized that I was as much in love with Bob’s family as I was with Bob.  His mother LaWanda was so good and so kind to me. She was like a mother to me and I enjoyed her company tremendously.  For those few years that we dated, I spent a lot of time just hanging out at their house and being a part of their family.  


One warm and humid spring morning, Bob broke up with me.  And then he got in his truck and drove off.  The break up was not unexpected.  The anvil falling from the sky had cast its long black shadow upon me long before that spring day.  I was not surprised, but I was crushed all the same.


I sat on the front steps of his parent’s house and sobbed until I could no longer distinguish between the throbbing of my head and the throbbing of my heart.  Every cell in my body ached and grieved.  Deep down I knew it was for the best, but it was a chapter in my life I did not want to close.  LaWanda came out of the house and sat down beside me as I wept.  She wrapped me up in her arms and cried with me.  She told me that I was better off without him.  Yes, but would I be better off without her?  No, not really and I never was. Bob, I eventually got over.  LaWanda, I never did.   


Eventually I dried my tears and moved on with my life.  Several years later, I moved to Texas taking the pearls with me.  Whenever I went home to Illinois for a visit, I always stopped by to see LaWanda. It was always awkward driving up that familiar blacktop driveway, hoping to see Bob and hoping not to see Bob.  But then she would invite me into her house and it was like I was 18 again.  We’d sit side-by-side on her sofa, drink iced tea and laugh and talk about everything but Bob. 


For the next 20 years, I sent her a Christmas card and she sent me one too. She always wrote I hope you are happy, Love LaWanda.  One year, the Christmas card I sent was returned. Not At This Address an unfamiliar hand had scrawled across the envelope.  I found out later that she had died.  No one had told me.  My heart broke all over again.


I thought of all of these things as I took the pearls off and put them back to sleep in their velvet bed.  I snapped the lid shut as if that somehow provided closure.  I pulled the lid up again and took one long last look.  I made a wish that someday Sean will give them to a girl who will love me as much as I loved LaWanda.


And then I closed the lid one last time and put them away for another 15 or 20 years.

47 thoughts on “The Pearl Necklace

  1. I loved this. My daughter recently had her first break up. She asked me what you are supposed to do with gifts that he had given her, specifically a stuffed animal. She wanted to burn it, but i told her you should put it up at the top of your closet because believe it or not someday you will see that red dog, and remember some very sweet times.

  2. Wow. Do you ever feel… I love how your writing stirs the feelings in me even though I have not had this particular experience in my life. You make me want to write letters to all the people I love and let words of tenderness float from my heart to theirs. You inspire me.

  3. I’m so sorry. I have a LaWanda. The mother of the first boy I dated seriously enough to consider marrying was an absolutely wonderful woman. She loved me, and I loved her. I wasn’t close to my own mother at the time, and she treated me as if I were her own.

    Things with the boy were always spotty, and I hung on to the relationship for her sake. I liked him, but I loved her, and I was so afraid I wouldn’t see her if I broke up with her son.

    When we did inevitably break up, I rarely saw her afterward. When my husband and I got engaged, she came to my bridal shower a few years later and begged me to break things off, to give her son another chance (not that he wanted one). We stood outside and cried, because I knew what she was feeling. She didn’t really want me to call things off, she just wanted me to be a part of her family, and that meant so much to me.

    Her son and I were not on good terms, and I didn’t feel that I could just stop by her house. We are not in touch, but I know she is still living.

    I’m going to call her tomorrow. Thank you.

  4. My LaWanda was my father’s 1st girlfriend after my parent’s divorce. I know it’s strange, but I was a teenager and this woman became my friend. I would sleep over at her house just for some “girl talk”. When they broke up, I never allowed myself to get close to anyone else he dated. I was polite to them but distant. Now he’s married to a wonderful woman.

  5. Gee Whiz! It’s too early in the morning for this! I do know exactly what you mean. I am still so close to one family that they are like my own, almost. Those ties stay sweet.

  6. Thank you for sharing. That was lovely. I don’t have a LaWanda…but I do hope that one day my boys will find girls that I can love like LaWanda loved you, and that they’ll love me right back.

  7. I loved this. It took me back to my first love and his family. Your story is very similar to mine. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  8. It’s a rare woman who can see the faults of her son and reach past them to comfort the girl whose heart he has broken. Even I miss LaWanda after reading that story.

  9. Funny… I am still in contact with my second serious boyfriend’s Dad, after all these years. He really wanted me to marry his son and join the family. LOL Wow, that was 14 years ago. He’s a grandfather now by all three of his kids, but he still calls me “the daughter who got away”. 😉

  10. Need to read your blog at home on days like this…I try not to cry at work. Wonderful writing!

  11. I think every girl should have a LaWanda. My LaWanda was named Joyce & I still see her from time to time at stores. She always speaks but we never mention her son. He, by the way, ended many years later dating my nephew’s ex-wife. She called me to tell me he sent his regards. Isn’t it amazing that what we think we need and want so badly isn’t what God wants for us?

  12. I think the girls that Sean will bring home over the years will be blessed beyond measure by knowing you.

  13. Sad but sweet story. Makes me wish for a LaWanda – an older and wiser woman to help me figure out myself.

    I’m trying to adopt myself out but no takers yet. Of course I’ve also tried selling my parents on ebay so what does this say? 😉

  14. This story has struck a note in my soul, not because I had a LaWanda, but because I someday hope to be one for my new daughter in law. We got off to a rough start so it’s not looking great. 🙁

  15. You will be a great mother-in-law for some lucky girl someday. I can only wish my daughter will be blessed with someone as kind and caring as you!

  16. That is so lovely.

    I was engaged to a young man from 18-21 years old. I was never super fond of his mother (she was odd, and hard to be around), but I did my best to be warm towards her. She seemed very alone in the world.

    When she died (several years after we’d broken up), he told me that my photo was the only one in her wallet. (She’d had two girls and two boys.) She once told him that I was better to him than any of her kids ever were.

    Made my heart soar, you know? You never know whose life you might touch with just a little extra effort.

  17. Thank you for sharing such a heart warming story. My LaWanda is my mother-in-law. Thank you for reminding me how lucky I am.

  18. Great memories! I have very fond memories of a boyfriend’s dad. He carried a picture of me in his wallet for over a decade until the former boyfriend finally married someone else. He was always like a second dad to me.

  19. Just a funny PS. After I posted my comment, I got a message that said, “Duplicate comment. It looks like you’ve said that before.” So I’m either very unoriginal, very tired when I make my comments, or you’re such a great writer, that those words are all I can say when I comment on your blog. You do write beautifully!!!!

  20. I know I felt the very same way when my high school sweetheart broke up with me. I mourned the fact that his family wouldn’t ever be my family just as much as I grieved for the relationship with him. In fact, there were several of his family members (including him) in my wedding party, and I still keep in touch with some of them today.

  21. I have a LaWanda but I haven’t kept in touch with her. It always bugged the next boyfreind that we kept in, touch and that should have been a large blinking neon warning sign. I think I will get back in touch with
    “the amazon.” She was the amazon and I, in all my 5ft 2in glory, “the dwarf.” sigh

  22. You totally need a disclaimer at the beginning of your posts, or maybe a tissue alert that flashes bright red??? Thank You! P.S. Loved it.

  23. You inspire me AM.
    I have a story about a pearl necklace,too…very different from yours. I need to write it our for myself .

  24. Beautiful story. My daughter’s high school boyfriend broke up with her about a year ago and she said to me later that she did not really miss him, but she missed his mother. So I think she can appreciate how you have felt about LaWanda all these years.
    She started seeing a new boyfriend shortly after the breakup and she loves his mother, too.

  25. Thank you for this post AM. It brought back many bittersweet memories. My LaWanda’s name is Cindy and my pearls a gold locket(complete with pictures and I Love You engraved on the back). It was my college graduation gift from her son. I awaken it from its eighteen year slumber about once every five years. Cindy’s son was my college sweetheart and my first love. We broke up two years after graduation and I mourn the loss of his family every day. His parents signed my cards and gifts as Mom and Dad #2. Cindy told me she always dreaded the day she checked her mailbox and would find my wedding invitation to someone else inside. She actually came to my wedding as much as it may have hurt her. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met and I have no doubt she is a wonderful mother-in-law and grandmother now. We keep in touch occasionally through Christmas cards. I would like to hear from her more but her son lives nearby and there would be too much weirdness to deal with. I keep their chapters of my life deep in my heart. Thank you for gently re-opening these chapters for me and letting me know I am not the only one who glances back from time to time and still feels that little magic you felt when you first put the necklace on. Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the LaWanda’s out there!

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