Monday, July 21, 2014

What I started to tell you about Elizabeth

I just spent a fruitless half hour scrolling over digitized old slides to find that one of our long-ago cleaning lady Elizabeth -- WHY haven't I labelled those photos?  You'll just have to picture for yourself a smiling wiry little woman, about my age, which would mean in her 40s when she came to us in the 1960s.  She once told me her name was really Elsbietta, or something along that line.  She had emigrated with her husband and young children after The War, under some program that re-settled DPs -- stateless Displaced Persons -- in the United States.  And eventually I discovered she came from the same town in Lithuania that my mother had left a couple of generations earlier.
But that's not what I started out to tell you. 
Elizabeth came in once so downcast, I had to ask what was the matter.  Well, said Elizabeth, you know that amber is our national jewel.  And last Saturday night, she'd had a party to celebrate her husband's new American citizenship.  (I'd done the same thing when Norm, born in Canada, "got his papers".)  And during their party, someone went into Elizabeth's bedroom, opened her top drawer and stole her collection of amber.
A few years later, Norm and I are on a bus tour of North Africa, and in a marketplace we see a really nice amber necklace.  It's priced ridiculously cheap, and our tour guide immediately bargains it down even further.  Can it be real?  And finally -- for something like $3 -- it's worth the chance.  We could take it home for Elizabeth.  Back at the hotel, we rub it to see if it will pick up bits of paper -- no way, no magnetism, no amber.  What we had was excellent plastic.
It looked a lot like this.
So we're home, I unpack, the necklace sits on my dresser.  Elizabeth shows up on Monday, admires the "amber".  I explain that we wanted to give it to her but it turned out to be fake.  "Can I have anyway?"  asks Elizabeth.
So here's what I started out to tell you.
Elizabeth dies.  Norm and I go to visiting hours at the Funeral Home.  The coffin is open, there she lies in a dark silk dress and guess what?  I whisper to Norm "That's the necklace we bought in Morocco."
Her husband hears, and he hastens to reassure us:
"Oh, we don't bury it!  We just trying to decide should go to the daughter or the daughter-in-law?"

So we didn't either. 

1 comment:

  1. A fine demonstration by all parties of the definition of politeness offered by Virginia Cary Hudson (author of O Ye Jigs and Juleps!) as the one she was taught at school: "Politeness is to do and say/The kindest things in the kindest way."