What’s past is prologue.
– Shakespeare, The Tempest
A number of years ago – in truth, I don’t remember how long ago it was – my mother wanted to inventory her jewelry. I didn’t know why she decided to do so at that point in time – perhaps a relative had passed away or she sensed her mortality – but I willingly obliged when she asked me to write down the descriptions of the pieces that her parents had given to her when she was a young woman in the Philippines. She retrieved a round cardboard box from beneath her bed and showed me sets of matching earrings and rings. I couldn’t recall what the locket looked like that evening, but I always remembered the story attached to it.
Six months after my mother passed away, when we put her ashes to rest in June 2012 – the month of her birthday – my sisters and I spent a late night going through her list of jewelry and matching the descriptions to each piece. Before we took turns selecting the pieces that we wanted to keep, I asked my sisters if I could have the locket. It had originally belonged to my grandmother’s friend’s mother. My grandmother – my lola, in Tagalog – became the owner of the locket in a barter during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. I was more intrigued by the story than the locket itself, though the Art Deco style has grown on me. Inside, were two small photographs of my lola and lolo, which were intact when the locket was given to me.
I never really got to know my lola. She was only in my life three times: when my mother took my two sisters and me to the Philippines for the entire summer of 1972; when I was a junior in high school and my mother petitioned my lola and lolo to join us in the U.S., which ended tragically when my homesick lolo died enroute to San Francisco International Airport on his journey home; and when as a college graduation present to myself, I went back to the Philippines in December 1984 with my mother and oldest sister. My lola died not long after our visit.
I have few pictures of my lola. The last time I was in the Philippines, I tried in vain to take a candid photograph of her, but she would always catch me and strike a rigid pose. One morning, I snuck up on her, as she enjoyed her pastime of sitting on a wooden bench by the open front door and watching the morning unfold. The light was shining just right on her. It is my favorite photograph of her and hangs in my office.
Now that I have her locket, I’m beginning to wear it more. It does no good to be hidden, along with the rest of the vintage jewelry of my mother’s, in the black-and-white cardboard box with “Brownies, Brownies” written in cursive across the lid and in smaller print beneath it “and other sweet surprises.” Taking a cue from friends of ours, who inspire us to use the good crystal stemware and dishes for every day or casual dining, I wear her locket whenever I can and in so doing honor her memory.