I had just left my storage unit, and I was driving down the highway bawling my eyes out. I had emptied every single bin looking for my earrings. "One more thing I've lost." I cried to myself. I thought of all of the years of memories my collection represented, happy years before my boys died, years of family gatherings before we sold our home. The missing earrings triggered a flood of grief that overwhelmed me.
It started back in 1971 when I bought my first pair of novelty earrings. They were cute little replicas of common household products such as Coke cans and Alka Seltzer. I delighted in their wackiness. They were 89 cents a pair, and each week I bought another. This was how my collection started.
Pretty soon my ninth grade algebra teacher would not start class until he had checked out my earrings. "Ok, Maribeth is wearing her Juicy Fruit Gum earrings today; now class can start."
I continued to purchase earrings everywhere I went and people began to buy earrings for me as gifts. Over time, as my collection grew, it became an expression of my creativity. In my bowling league days I had my bowling earrings; when my daughter danced at her recitals I wore my ballerina earrings; when my son played soccer you could be certain that little soccer balls would dangle from my lobes.
.As a teenager my daughter was sometimes embarrassed by my earrings. This merely added to my enjoyment. "Don't you realize that you are an earring heiress?" I would quip.
When I became an elementary school teacher I enjoyed matching my earrings to the curriculum. If we were doing a unit on transportation out came my airplane, car, and boat ear-wear. For whatever we were reading I had animals and objects from around the world. I sometimes went so far as to jot down earring ideas in my lesson plans! At times I was accused of being Ms. Frizzle, the cartoon teacher from "The Magic School Bus" series whose earrings always matched each episode.
When tragedy struck, my earrings became an expression of my grief. I have a pair of gold hoops that have little cherubs clinging to them. They represent my two boys who are with the Lord. I have feather earrings for my Chris who likes to send feathers, and fish earrings for my Jarrod who loved fishing. I think that there will definitely be earrings in heaven.
Recently when we downsized I gave some of my earrings away, kept some with me, and put the remainder in storage. Like my beloved children in heaven I was sure that I would see them again.
So when I left the storage unit empty handed, I sobbed hysterically. I especially mourned the loss of my troll earrings. I had collected a miniature pair to match every holiday. I remembered Chris playing with my little Santa trolls, Jarrod flicking them so they rocked on my ears, and our daughter, Erin, rolling her eyes. "Remember, some day this all will be yours." I would remind her.
I was in a funk for days and I gradually resigned myself to shopping online and to hopefully replacing some of my favorite troll earrings. Then, months later, Rob and I were at his mom's house. She was keeping some of our art for us in her garage. "Look what I found of yours," she said, holding up a large bag filled with earrings. And there they were, all of my little trolls smiling up at me!
"It's Christmas in July!" I exclaimed, delighted. Once again I could touch and wear something that physically connected me with my cherished past.
It was like the Lord was reminding me that I will see my boys again, but I don't get to pick the time.
Grief is funny that way. It isn't always sparked by the obvious such as anniversaries. Sometimes it leaps up at us unexpectedly, triggered by everyday objects like earrings.
What reminds you of your departed loved ones? I would love to hear about it.