Gram’s Jewelry Box

Most of the Easters of my childhood were spent in scratchy starched miniature three-piece suits, stuffily sitting at a tiny kids’ table in my Grandmother’s apartment in Hoosick Falls. After being forced to go to church, we’d load our Easter baskets into the car and make the hour-long drive from Amsterdam for a lunch of ham and potatoes, and a dessert of chocolate treats.

Somewhere there’s a photo or two of my brother and I sitting beside two huge pastel-colored baskets, grinning ear-to-ear with the beautiful bounty of sugar before us.

As much as we loved our Gram, something about the whole formality of the day dampened what should have been an otherwise-happy occasion. As any good Catholic knows, Easter is the real high holiday of the religious year. Christmas gets all the gift-laden glory, but the resurrection is where the real power is at. Anyone – in fact everyone when you think about it – can be born. Only one guy was born again and brought back to life. (That’s how the story goes, at least, even if I was unclear as to where JC went after escaping that cave and leaving his clothes behind. Naked guys couldn’t get nearly as far today without incident.)

Catholic confusion aside, my brother and I focused on the treats of the day, and worked to extricate ourselves from the watchful eyes of our parents and doting grandmother. We’d invariably shed our jackets, untuck our shirts, and lose our clip-on ties.

If we ate most of our lunch, we’d be excused to explore the bedroom and guest room, leafing through Gram’s books and playing her music boxes. While ‘Misty’ played  from a spinning trio of porcelain ships, it was a rose-lacquered music box clock that played the waltz that would forever signify my grandmother.

As a braille-like drum turned and plucked bands of stiff metal, the magical pluckings of the music boxes filled the wooden surrounds of Gram’s bedroom. As each one slowed to a sad stop, we’d wind them up again, as tight as they would go, and the music sped up in a way that made us smile. Such was the excitement of Easter morning for two little boys in Hoosick Falls.

Of greater interest to one of those boys was a jewelry box that held all sorts of sparkling confections. If I have any notion of how to accessorize, it’s largely from these early days of rummaging through my Gram’s jewelry. Though most of her belongings were garish costume pieces (my favorite) a few held great value, such as the ones seen here. It was a lesson that informed the rest of my life: the most ostentatious-looking items weren’t necessarily the most valuable. That would be our little secret.

In her own way, Gram taught me what really mattered, and though we could glitter and glam up with the best of them, the love between a Grandmother and her grandson was worth more than the prettiest diamond and the bluest sapphire.

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