Beloved Beads of Dirt Cheap Price

September 12, 2017

Spring in Central Florida usually means daily rains, but not this year. Throughout the first half of 2017, we weathered forecasters’ laments over the peninsula’s record-breaking, extreme drought. Receding lakes and crunchy lawns bore browning witness to the contrast between our usually lush subtropical landscapes and the unseasonably parched, sunny conditions. Across more than a dozen counties, official restrictions forbade all but minimal, two-day-in-seven life support watering.

Even the weeds—the hardiest, greenest parts of my yard—wilted.

When walking my dog, I tried, sometimes successfully, to refrain from judging homeowners whose healthy St. Augustine grass flourished in thicker, brighter carpets than ’70s shag.

“…your Father which is in heaven…maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”—Matthew 5:45

Meanwhile, the blades of green outside my back door evaporated, transforming sod into soil into sand. The soles of my household’s two-legged and four-legged souls toted too much of the overheated outdoors inside. Fed up with extra sweeping, the week before Memorial Day, I scavenged scraps of broken bricks and cracked concrete to lift my footpath above the dirt.

I’d hefted the hoe only three strokes when aqua sunlight sparkled from the ground, stopping me. I knew that bauble. I remembered the day it fell. Humming a line from “Amazing Grace,” I pulled my phone from my pocket and snapped a picture before bending to retrieve what “once was lost but now [was] found.”

“…Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.”—Luke 15:9

***

In October 2016, more than seven months earlier, a lack of water was the last thing on my mind. Humidity made walking more like wading. It slowed my sweat-slicked body through the drudgery of readying house and yard against Hurricane Matthew’s approach. During (and enduring) more than two hours of pulled muscles and scraped skin, I lowered and secured window awnings. I reinforced the sides and doors of the rusty backyard shed. As much for my neighbors’ safety as my own, I hauled potential projectiles—porch chairs, small planters, yard tools, broken bricks—around the house and into the garage.

In hurricane country, we heed the physical as well as the spiritual admonition:

“…Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”—Helaman 5:12

After I’d shored up my home foundations, I peeled away my filthy clothes to shower. Unfortunately, I then saw the scriptural guarantee against falling hadn’t applied to one of my translucent earrings. The pair, one of my favorites, picked up whichever teal tones I wore, but they’d cost so little I’d never worried about losing one—until it happened.

Frantic, I inspected my smelly clothes, hoping to find the missing earring stuck within the folds. Then I redressed and retraced my steps—around the house, around and inside the shed, inside the garage, around the house again—to no avail.

Exhausted and defeated, I cried as the shower stripped away grime, sweat, and blood. The loss of that cheap earring stung worse than soapsuds on my scrapes. My tears rose from a deeper, more turbulent injury. I knew the missing glass beads didn’t deserve the exertion of a good cry, yet I’d valued the set beyond its convenient color and carefree cost.

I silenced the faucet but still heard rushing water. Outside, Hurricane Matthew’s first feeder bands announced the soaking, slanting, gusting approach of mightier winds to come.

***

Five years earlier, as a gift a few days before Mother’s Day 2011, my three daughters coaxed me to the mall to pierce my forty-mumble-something-year-old ears. The girls didn’t utter the words since Daddy isn’t here, but I nevertheless heard their unspoken desire to distract us all from his irrevocable absence. They’d determined to delight me with this present I’d never have chosen for myself. So, to please them, I blinked against the glare of the kiosk’s overwhelming options. I picked out the tiniest, least noticeable, simplest gold balls; my sewing kit held larger pinheads. The momentary jab and residual tenderness in my earlobes ached less than the gaping hole already piercing my heart.

More than a year later, as I faced my second widowed wedding anniversary, it seemed as if enduring such occasions slipped me backward rather than forward in healing. At best, I skidded through routine recurrences. But as I accompanied my youngest daughter sale-shopping for the upcoming school year, a display of mass-produced earrings caught my attention. I stared at the rainbow of trinkets while thinking of the trio of pierced pairs I owned and rotated every three days—all presents from my girls since that first widowed Mother’s Day. The original orbs gleamed like the wedding ring I still wore. The duo of faux pearls matched my temple clothing. The half-inch, obsidian teardrops trailed down. Gold metal, white nacre, black tears.

At home, beneath tarnished mirrors set into faux velvet lids, my hand-me-down jewelry boxes also housed a two-decade tangle of last-minute, daddy-daughter gift necklaces. Alongside them nestled clip-ons, brooches, and necklaces inherited from my mother’s and grandmothers’ costume collections. Opening the recollection of those boxes’ contents shone a light on my dulled self-awareness.

In twenty-five years of scrimping to splurge on everyone else, I’d not bought one item of jewelry for myself. Not one.

On impulse, my hand rose toward the wall of bargain-priced beads hanging in as many hues as a factory-fresh, deluxe crayon box. I reached for shimmery pieces in the only color range I’d recently noticed (and began consciously wearing) in almost two years: a shade midway between chartreuse budding citrus leaves and indigo evening skies.

Moments later, receipt in hand, I grinned as a pair of stacked, teal glass globes swayed from my earlobes. Each step I took pushed the pretty pendulums into motion, and feeling them swing reenergized me in body and spirit not only that day but every time I worn them since. Their kinetic energy recharged my soul, protecting my forward velocity, slow as it was, from lurching in fits or ceasing altogether. The reminders they waved at me kept my momentum from crashing beneath the unpredictable, intensified gravity of grieving. Wearing the earrings I’d chosen and purchased for myself reset the clockwork of remembering who I once had been and could someday become.

***

Hoe in hand, gazing at the familiar, blue-green sparkle in the gray sand of my backyard, I smiled, momentarily, selfishly grateful for the drought leading me to this impossible moment. My earring could not have fallen in the grass—only a foot from the back porch—and remained intact through torrential, named-storm downpours, countless footfalls en route to the garbage and recycling cans, and weekly lawn mower cyclones. Impossible.

Yet there it shone.

Now, stepping into another hurricane season of unpredictable weather and personal winds, I blink into the uncertainty. And yet, my near-weightless, reunited trinkets reflect a beacon’s sparkle of tiny-not-so-tiny tender mercy. If “not one [sparrow] is forgotten before God” and “even the very hairs of [my] head are all numbered”—and my earring returned—then I need “fear not therefore” what lies ahead (Luke 12:6–7). He will guard my wobbly paths and shore up my foundation as I walk my way back toward Him.

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”—Luke 1:37

 

September 12, 2017

2 Comments

  1. Sherilyn

    September 12, 2017

    This is lovely.

    • Teresa TL Bruce

      September 16, 2017

      Thank you, Sherilyn.

      I did NOT wear earrings this year while readying the outside of my house for Irma.

      Even so, I did lose one of another pair inside while baking before the storm. (It’s got to turn up in the next few months … right?)

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