Grandma fingered the delicate silver chain and looked up at me with dewy blue eyes. Pops kindly offered her a tissue, but she declined, instead withdrawing a lace-edged handkerchief from somewhere deep within the confines of her pocket. Ever well-mannered, Grandma managed to turn even nose-blowing into an act of etiquette. She softly blew once, then twice, into her piece of cloth, then dabbed daintily at the remains.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Grandma?” I asked her, with a glance at Pops.
|It’s all I’d been told about since I was old enough to understand that word—tradition
“Oh yes,” she said quite firmly, her voice unwavering despite the underlying emotions. “It’s a tradition, you know.”
I did know. It’s all I’d been told about since I was old enough to understand that word—tradition.
Even Pops was looking misty-eyed.
“Now, I was slightly younger than you are, of course. At eighteen, I was barely out of school, you know.” I nodded appropriately, my face a picture of interest and curiosity. I had lost count of the number of times I had heard this story. Each time, Grandma told it as if it had only just happened. Today was special, though. Today, the story actually held significance.
“But times were tough. I wanted to help my father financially, so I took a job at a clothing factory nearby. It was twelve hours a day sitting by a sewing machine, but who cared then? It was wartime, you know?”
Yes. Wartime. My head bobbed accordingly.
“Then the bombing began. First the Germans bombed the schools, then the hospitals, then the factories! No more work, not for me, not for Father, not for your great-uncle Harry and not for my sister Roberta, G‑d rest her soul. Poppa wanted to move to the country, but who had the money for that? No money, no move, you know?”
Uh-huh. I smiled sadly. Pops winked at me from his position on the kitchen table.
“Then Momma said, why don’t we sell my jewelry? That will fetch enough money for the fare to the country, and maybe even a little cottage. So, Poppa gathered the diamond ring, the gold bangles, the pearl earrings with their matching bracelet—and the heart necklace.”
I gasped, as I do every time at this point in the story, and Grandma raised her eyebrows in grave approval.
“Poppa took Momma with him to the pawnshop and laid everything out on the counter. One by one, the pawnbroker weighed the items to discern their value. But when he picked up the heart necklace—Momma suddenly let out a shout, ‘No!’”
|“It skipped a generation; the pattern isn’t perfect. But does it matter?”
“‘No!’ Momma grabbed the necklace out of the pawnbroker’s clammy hands. ‘It’s been in the family for four generations,’ she said, clutching it to her chest, ‘passed on from grandmother to granddaughter on the day of their wedding. This one,’ she said sternly, having regained her composure, ‘stays with me!’”
“She kept it?”
“She did!” Grandma’s face fell somewhat. “Sadly, Momma died two years later from double pneumonia, and when we divided up her possessions, I got the necklace.”
Her blue eyes gazed into mine. “It skipped a generation; the pattern isn’t perfect. But does it matter?”
“No,” I whispered.
“You know, Dorothy”—she never called me Dobra, even though Mum and Pops had learned to use the name quite naturally now—“you’re not the oldest granddaughter. There’s your cousin Charlotte, of course, and Rosalyn, her sister. But times have changed, Dorothy.” She looked sad. “How long has that Jeremy boy been dating our Char? Three years now?”
“Something like that,” Pops said heartily, eyeing me with undeniable pride.
“You, Dorothy—you turned into someone my grandmother would have been proud of. Even Momma, though she kept very little, would have understood enough to know you’ve made some good choices, my darling.”
Her hands trembling now, she unfastened the silver chain.
“Ha-yim . . .”
I smiled. “Chaim.”
“Chayeem. He will make you happy. I can feel it, you know.”
I turned around so that my back was facing her, and my eyes fastened on the wall. There hung a picture of my great-grandmother on her wedding day, staring solemnly at the camera, flanked by her religious-looking parents. They most definitely did not look approving of her uncovered hair and low-cut neckline, where the heart lay just before the dress began. My hand traced its way up the lacy cream pattern of my dress to skim the collarbone, neatly covered by the lace finish. I fingered the silver heart that now rested against my chest, separated only by a thin layer of material. It felt like the heart was embedding itself into my body, engraving its message onto my very skin.
Grandma came round to stand beside me, and Pops lowered himself off the table to flank my other side. Together, we gazed at the picture on the wall.
|“It’s been through a lot, but we still have it, don’t we?” Soft tears were falling down her cheeks, caressing her wrinkles
“It’s been through a lot, but we still have it, don’t we?” Soft tears were falling down her cheeks, caressing her wrinkles.
“We always will,” Pops said gruffly, uncomfortably shifting the white kippah that graced his head like fresh snow atop a mountain.
“Thank you, Grandma,” I managed, my vision suddenly blurry.
She squeezed my arm and pointed to the frame again. “It’s tradition. Traditions somehow pull through. There’s no stopping tradition, you know?”
Slowly, a smile spread across my face until I was positively beaming. “You’re right,” I said, thinking of Chaim and his warm smile, his endearing beard, the singsong of his learning. “It’s tradition. And there’s no stopping tradition.”