pilling
The Heirloom
by Rebecca Pilling

Christmas, 2014. Assonet, Massachusetts.

It’s been dark for at least an hour. The siblings with children have gone, taking commotion with them, but not joy, or contentment. Babcha sits in her navy blue wingback chair, Uncle Charlie lounges nearby; my parents are perched on kitchen chairs, and Katie and I, the two single, childless siblings, are on the wildly uncomfortable red leather couch. All is calm, all is quiet.

Babcha looks at Katie.

“Here, try this on,” she says.

We’d noticed earlier she was wearing two diamond rings; the one Grandpa Walt gave her, hooked onto her wedding band, and the one from her first fiancé, Jimmy, the boy who died in the war.

Jimmy’s ring fits Katie’s right ring finger nearly perfectly.

“It’s yours,” Babcha tells her. Despite feeling awkward, Katie gracefully accepts.

Then Babcha turns to me.

“Here’s what you’re going to do,” she commands. “You’re going to take these earrings out of my ears.”

Dutifully, I remove the only earrings I’ve ever seen her wear: small, sparkly, diamond studs.

Walt gave them to her in 1984, the year my mother was pregnant with me. They were going to a wedding and he wanted to surprise her with something nice. He gave Charlie money, told him to go pick them out. Walt thought they were too small, but Babcha loved them.

Unable to remove them herself these days, the earrings haven’t been cleaned in ages. Skin, and oils, and wax have built up making them unrecognizable.

“There’s cleaner under the sink,” she tells me.

With reverence we resurrect our gifts. My mother rinses her rings, too. Soon each piece has regained its radiance.

I replace the earrings I’m wearing with Babcha’s. They’re the nicest jewelry I’ll ever own; valuable because they were lovingly given, then given again.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Selfie wearing Babcha’s earrings at Seagull Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (summer 2015).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Every source, from other Polish people I know to online translators/dictionaries and blogs, tell me the word for grandmother is officially spelled “Babcia”  Why we spell it with an “h” I assume is simply an anglicized spelling.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Pilling is a New England native, writer, artist, and former outdoor science teacher, currently working on a dystopian novel, and drawing lots of pictures of robots drinking coffee. Quasi-nomadic, Rebecca has lived in five out of six New England states, and traveled as far as Oregon in one direction, and Sweden in the other, using each experience to enrich her already creative imagination. Many of Rebecca’s drawings, and a few of her short stories, can be found at the Brooklyn Art Library, sketchbookproject.com. Her work often includes something supernatural, literary, scientific, and/or coffee-related. Happily her Babcha is still with her, and Rebecca wears her earrings as she did, practically all the time.