Just buttons ... or ...?
|Seed pearls glued to thin pink ribbon
wrapped round her head midst mahogany curls.
Such a tiny thing, so wanted and for a moment
the world stopped for the pearl-child.
Christening gown sewn by great-grandmother's
arthritic fingers plying a silver needle.
Neck to hem fifty-four little pearl buttons
for the year she was born.
Grandma always said a child's teeth
looked like little pearls. Shiny, new,
so very small -- temporary.
Life wouldn't grind them down.
Tiny pearl teeth kept by the tooth fairy
in a pale pink gossamer bag in the
bottom drawer of her mother's jewelry box.
Tomboy, far more interested in books than
a pocketful of pearls. Her father said,
"When temper surges, or sadness floods--
take a moment; count the pearls."
College graduation gown of hunter green
worn atop a fussy dress. Pearl
buttons closed the back: required
help to get dressed. Not quite adult yet.
"Buttons join two things together. Cloth
or experience. Sometimes, we all need help
keeping things together. Remember these pearls,"
her mother said. She kept the buttons but not the dress.
Her grandmother's wedding gown altered to fit.
Her mother had eloped, but finally, the dream made real.
Thousands of pearls outlined swirls and flowers:
a budding romance celebrated.
Over the years she counted six children:
three she watched grow to adults. Many times
she counted pearls. Found comfort in
sifting them through her fingers.
Inherited jewelry box. A note in the bottom drawer.
Tears are unrealized pearls. Joy gives pearls
their luster. Shine these pearls, child. she counted
hundreds of pearls. Over and over again.
Always, along her way, she wrote. Her words
filled books, her poetry touched. She taught
and some of her students collected
pearls of their own.
Freely she gave what some saw as wisdom
for a life lived greedy is life not lived at all.
"The more you give, the fuller your basket."
She never forgot her grandmother's words.
Tiny pearl buttons, unbuttoned
one by one; his arthritic fingers fumbling, slow.
It didn't matter to either of them
for there was love there.
Time came when the pearls were left
unbuttoned. Their bodies still curved to the other
for after so many years they fit --
hip to hip, heart to heart. Love still there.
Never a fan of wakes, of forever sleeping souls,
she'll be cremated one day. Fitting as she danced in fire.
Carved wooden urn surrounded by a lifetime
of pearls earned.