I wasn’t working last night. Or not at first. Perhaps not at the end. I was on a mission to find a small pouch or bag, perhaps the kind that you might be gifted jewellery or a small trinket in, or perhaps the kind that a Tooth Fairy might carry. I had practised my best tiny writing and produced a small letter from Hazel, thanking Noah for his lovely, albeit prematurely lost tooth, and now needed a little bag to put some coins and the note in. I found one without too much trouble. I am something of a hoarder, keeping the ribbons from the shoulders of my tops (you know, the ones they use to keep the clothing from sliding off the hanger in the shop), buttons, paper bags, old cards, broken mugs and so had a good idea in which random box of stuff I might locate my quarry. The first bag I found was small, lilac and transparent (an ‘organza gift bag’ I later discovered when googling) and just the right size.
I moved over to my old jewellery box to check that there was nothing better in there, I was sure I had a little black velvet pouch somewhere, perhaps one that wasn’t see through would be more exciting for Noah to open? The black leather jewellery box with the broken handle was mostly covered with bedding and towels that just don’t seem to fit in my chest of drawers and so usually live on top next to my sewing box, jar of coins, borrowed books and deodorant. It had a layer of dust over it as many years ago I started using a wooden box that Aaron gave me as storage for my earrings, bracelets and necklaces instead of my black one.
I dusted the top, opened the metal catch and lifted the lid. I looked down and smiled, immediately distracted from my search. The box was one of those with drawers and compartments and an area at the top that looked like it was from a jewellers display counter, cream velvet with little pillowed sections. The box had moved with me from Manchester to Alloa, to Edinburgh to Dunblane, back to Alloa and now to Gargunnock. However, the contents of the box had not been worn for a good decade and a half. I moved my fingers over the various items touching some and picking up others. I untangled the chain of a necklace I remembered getting from my grandparents, from one I had no memory of. I tried to pair up earrings, succeeding and failing in equal measure. I remembered fondly my friend Lislie, picking up some earrings that she gave me; shaped like two little people, each wearing the colours of the Mexican flag. I moved these to a compartment in the old printer drawer that I brought to use as a display shelf, Noah would like to see them.
I must have liked purple when I was a girl, as other than silver this was by far the most dominant colour in my jewellery box. I placed a hair slide with three purple enamel squares onto my shelf and a rope bracelet made during my gap year in Canada to represent the camaraderie of the team I was part of. I then noticed my fingers had started to feel funny, not quite dirty but less smooth and remembered the feeling of touching tarnished metal and the invisible residue it left your hands. I then noticed the smell and remarked that tarnished metal had a familiar smell too. How much of my jewellery was silver and how much was something else? Does all tarnished metal leave a smellable residue?
Without really thinking I started to pull out a few necklaces with flowers and pretty stones incorporated, and as I did so decided that I would give these to my niece Ella, who last year got her first jewellery box for Christmas. I didn’t want to give her anything too grown up or anything broken. But as I discarded items unsuitable for a 6 year old I started to feel a bit guilty about the objects I was rejecting and memories that I would be shutting away again for another few years. I considered the likelihood that most of these items would be disposed of by my children or grandchildren years to come, when perhaps a happier fate might await them if I were to act now. I pondered why I always personify objects but quickly moved on to thoughts of mosaics containing lonely earrings shaped like stars or flowers, to silver rivers and glistening mountains forged from necklace chains and shiny pendants. I tried to decide if, for an unbroken object, a new home would be better than a recreation and how mendable some of my broken jewellery could be with the help of a local jeweller or the right YouTube video.
I opened another little drawer and saw the black velvet pouch I’d been searching for, but when I turned it over it had writing much too big for a tooth fairy printed on the other side. I placed the necklaces for Ella inside it and slipped it back into one of the drawers. Remembering my original mission I shut my jewellery box and stowed it back away with muddled thoughts of wasted treasure, valued memories, lost pairs and new beginnings swimming around my head. I slipped the coins and Hazel’s note into the purple bag, perhaps there was something magical about its transparency after all. I headed into Noah’s room, gently felt under his pillow for his tooth (safely snug in a little tooth shaped box from his dentist) and replaced it with the tooth fairy’s gift. I carried his little tooth back into my room and placed it into a small box next to my bed where I kept precious objects, those with no possible value to anyone but me.