In which Juana Arias gets graced. A guest post.
it happens that i have 2 sets of pearls. that i don’t wear. which is the whole thing with these posts and this month. i don’t remember what made me decide i wanted pearls. i do know i was young. and i did not come from a family where you got pearls at 16. or at graduation. when i graduated i was given an alarm clock. which, i can tell you, has all kinds of implications that i don’t intend to get into here. i don’t intend, but i might. cause there’s a lot of blank page in front of me and not a lot of planning has gone into this. the thing about that alarm clock is that i still use it. daily. and i still dislike it as much as i did the day i got it. also, the other thing about it is it has my name on it. like, engraved. so, there’s no re-gifting it or dropping it at the thrift store, and the second-generation-removed-from-the-depression-era voice in me reminds me that we don’t throw things away that work. or can be fixed.
but, again…the pearls. that’s what i’m here for.
i’m sure i was in high school when i decided i wanted them. when i saw them on some woman far removed from my reality and decided that i wanted to be like her. and that the pearls might get me closer. but there was this thing in me that also knew i couldn’t just go get them. that they were tied to another person. that that other person would have to decide when it was time for me to get them. that it was a gift that you earned, or aspired to, or grew into. I’m not really sure which. much later in life, i would learn that waiting for others to decide your time was a foolish way to spend it. your time, that is. but that’s such a serious lesson to learn, and not at all the dreamy-ness of waiting for your pearls. i can tell you, though, i knew, really knew, that my pearls would be different. how? i had no idea. but they would be. for sure. and because of that they would be meaningful and beautiful. and i would so own them. and they would grace me.
i think i was in my early twenties, and just passed the first time i learned the lesson of waiting on someone else, when i knew what would make my pearls different. i read a fascinating article in the national geographic about black pearls. and there it was. the answer. they would be black. and, natural. and not cultured. and i would find each of them, on my own, in whatever exotic locale i had to travel to to make that all happen. i’d be lying if i said something on this order didn’t happen every month when my copy of nat geo arrived. but, this was different. i was really gonna do this. this might be one of the very first times i ever became really obsessive about meaning and beauty as it pertained to my body. my aesthetic. my person. perhaps even as it pertained to my fashion sense. which, i assure you, is not so much fashion as it is sense. sensory, senseless, sensible.
i shared this endlessly with my partner. of course, implying that this involved him. which he didn’t pick up on. but, his mother and his sister did. and, so, much to my surprise i was given a box, from a major retailer, for my birthday. and i became the owner of black pearls. and then i wondered what i was supposed to do with them. these shiny, grey, perfectly round, things. wear them? where? i felt as though i hadn’t thought this through. maybe the next time i dressed up? not even the faux hawk helped, i promise. so they stayed in the box. it’s where they are right now. in the box. in his house. along with so many other things of mine that i didn’t (and don’t) know what to do with. that i thought could just stay there. in my home. and wait for me to come back. and they are. but i’m not.
which, of course, brings me to the other set of pearls. the ones i was much more direct about. the ones i decided i wanted him to buy me. the ones i waited for, but wasn’t going to wait any more for. because it was our 7th anniversary. we were back in the place we were married. and we had survived so many years of medical everything. there was a daughter. and i was tired of waiting for the second one to arrive. and those pearls were it. natural, freshwater, tiny. little seeds of lovely. silver bead accents. they were different. not black, sure, but they were their own being. confident. quiet. strong. full. i could own that. that could own me. and, more importantly, i had my own little pearl, now. so they had meaning. her name means ‘pearl’ in greek, ‘little’ in german, and she was still alive. so this was that thing for me…the beauty and meaning in my daily life. the symbol. the reminder. the thing. the pearls. and her sister. the one i was tired of waiting to meet. who wouldn’t want her to be all that, too? the embodiments of all that.
it came as no surprise when he gave them to me. i wore them all the time. everyday. i don’t remember when i stopped wearing them. when, some other thing graced my neck. now they’re lost in a handful of necklaces that have meaning for me. and they’re lost, because of their meaning. it’s likely that i might even have a hard time looking at them because of all that meaning. all that time. all that waiting.
Juana Arias is Clay Studio Manager at the Arts Center of Saint Peter, a ceramist, a fiber artist and a graduate student in art at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Chick also makes these.
Tomorrow: If you’re doing this, go all the way. Add an apron. An APRON.