I had just arrived at the jewelry store a day earlier. As the jeweler laid me out on the black velvet tray, my links and beads reflected the lights overhead and I literally glowed. Just before closing time the next day, a tall, determined woman strode into the store, accompanied by 2 tall young men, one in a Navy uniform, one in an Army uniform.
“That’s enough, now, Philip,” the woman said. “Ann will be 20 years old in a few days. I have saved this money myself, earned it myself hanging wallpaper in people’s houses, upholstering chairs and painting walls, I know there is war going on and every penny counts, but Ann is to have her bracelet.”
She walked up to the counter and laid a wad of bills on the clean, shiny surface of the display case. “Which of these bracelets will this money buy?” she asked the jeweler. He counted the bills carefully.
I knew the hard-working lady didn’t have enough to buy me, but I suddenly wanted to be her daughter’s birthday gift more than anything. I tried to outshine all the other bracelets in the display case. The jeweler put the money down and appraised what he had in the case. He started to reach for the bracelet next to me, a small, tarnished, sad little trifle, when he hesitated and swept his hand past my neighbor and picked me up, velvet tray and all and placed me on the counter.
The woman handled me gently, appraising me with a critical eye. “I think Anna would love this” she said finally. “What do you think, boys?” They shook their heads in agreement. “How much for engraving?” she asked the jeweler.
“There is no extra charge. For the sacrifices you are making, with two sons off to war, it seems only right their little sister has a happy birthday.” He scooped up the bills into his hands. “Sale is final.”
The woman looked him in the eye, and accepted his offer with a firm handshake.
“Now, what do you want engraved on this faceplate?” He aske.d
“ Mother to Ann,” she said, “and below it, the date, 1943”.
And so it was done, those words and the date engraved on my faceplate which has a gold rosette at each end. As predicted by all, Ann loved her bracelet and I adorned her arm for many years. As she grew older, she gave her jewelry to her daughters. Patricia Ann received me and she treasures me, too.
I am 71 years old now, but my links shine as they did on that day in 1943. My faceplate is a little scratched and worn, but hey, that’s a part of life, isn’t it ?Ann, now 91, is still with us, but all the others have gone, her parents, seven bothers, sister Blanche and their husbands and wives. I know Pat will keep me safe and I think she’ll pass me on to her granddaughter, Evelyn, someday. I am proud to be an heirloom handed down by generations of women as strong and determined as Minerva Struble, Ann’s mother and Pat’s grandmother, who worked so hard to give Ann a happy birthday against the backdrop of a world at war.