SPOILER ALERT: She turns 30 this summer. So, is that the time for the passed-down pearls?? Please welcome 29-year-old overachiever-yet-possibly-under-accessorized Alyssa Auten.
Pearls remind me of my grandma. She was classy, fancy and had twelve of the same white blouse from the Oval Room section of Dayton’s (and let me tell you, the Oval Room was a swanky, swanky place…pretty sure I once saw a price tag of one of the shirts that read $120.00). Grandma Ellie wore pearls frequently; accompanied by one of those white blouses, some Kleenex tucked in her sleeve and at least three packs of white Tic Tacs in her purse. I’m not kidding about the white TicTacs. When she passed away we found dozens of those small, clear, minty-smelling containers all over her condo.
My grandma instilled a sense of refinery and “dressing for the occasion” in my mother and I think some of that trickled down to me. I grew up hearing, “You need to dress nicely for this graduation party,” and, “this pearl necklace is worth a lot of money and it’ll be yours someday.” I was always interested in “outfits” and being put together, however, my high school stint as a “Goth” perhaps changed my style and clothing course forever.
I went from that Goth phase to college where my University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee mantra was, “I’m wearing my sweats to class and there’s nothing you can do about it,” to a young professional wearing outfits that may have been more fitting for pearls. During those years my grandma passed away and the pearls became mine, but the necklace stayed nicely packed away in my mom’s jewelry box.
Today, I love dressing up but often feel that pearl necklaces are too fancy for me. I do, however, own two different sizes of fake pearl earrings, no doubtedly from Target. I also own a multiple-strand fake pearl necklace with a giant white flower on it…something from my more adventurous years that rarely gets put over my head these days. Now it just hangs among the other seldom-worn necklaces from my early twenties.
This July, I’ll turn 30. Does that mean I’m at an age where I can pull off pearls more appropriately? I’m not sure; I’ve seen adorable tweens wearing pearls and they look fabulous. I’ve just never thought I could pull them off. At the moment I’ll be sticking with my fake pearl earrings where I’m much more comfortable. And for the time being, my lovely and responsible mother will keep my “expensive and passed-down” pearls in that navy, velvet-lined jewelry box in her bedroom (sans boxes of white TicTacs).
And who knows, maybe Grandma Ellie loved those Tic Tacs so much because they reminded her of her treasured pearls..?
Alyssa Auten is executive director of the Nicollet County Historical Society. Some beautiful stuff out there, taxidermy and prairie trails and wildly popular comedy nights. She’d love for you to visit.