This Mother's Day will be very different for a lot of mothers. One of my daughters works at a preschool and she was telling us the other night that fathers all across America will have an extra job this year since their toddlers will not be making some sweet handmade card as part of the curriculum. No, this year, all the fathers will have to get out the glue and the markers and the uncooked macaroni themselves, and organize their OWN crafting hour so that the littlest people in the family are not empty-handed on Mother's Day.
Last year's Mother's Day was a nonevent at our house. We'd had a wedding in the backyard the day before, and so we all slept later than usual. And instead of the usual breakfast tray in bed, like the last 30 years, I got to forage in the fridge for all the delicious food I hadn't gotten to eat enough of the night before! Cold lobster rolls and cake. Heaven. It was wonderful, actually, and a bit of a relief to know that the day was not about me. We'd had enough celebration that week. But this year, I am hopeful to return to the tradition of a happy, chaotic morning with spilled tea and toast and a tray filled with flowers brought up to my bedroom. And maybe – just maybe – Sid will come through with one more tradition he started 30 years ago, when I first became a mother.
I still wear this ring that he gave me on that first Mother's Day – a gold gypsy ring set with our birthstones. Ruby for us (he and I are both July) and diamond for Elizabeth's April. My grandmother had worn this type of ring and I had always loved seeing it on her gnarly old hands. He started out strong! I am actually not a huge jewelry person in the first place, so while I was thrilled with this one – and loved the symbolism of it - I am glad he didn't continue past that first year. I would have run out of real estate on my fingers very quickly. The next thirty years brought less extravagant gifts. Kitchen supplies, books to try to find the time to read, cotton scarves, and always homemade cards from the girls. (A particularly fantastic one was crafted with a picture of a Vitamix blender, which had been purchased with some discount code and thus could not ship fast enough to arrive in time. I would enjoy the actual Vitamix later, but that day I beamed with pride knowing I had raised daughters as thrifty as me.)
But one recent year, Sid picked the jewelry thing up again, with a pair of earrings that kicked off a bit of an obsession for me. Marie Hélène de Taillac is a wonderful French jeweler with an amazing background that checks ALL the boxes for me. She comes from a super creative, close-knit family of seven with several sisters – all of whom cannot get enough of their mother and mention her constantly! – and had this fantastic, romantic upbringing between Libya and France, before starting her jewelry line in Jaipur, the gem capital of the universe. And it's a real family business on top of all that. The story writes itself! Sid was actually with me in Paris when we bought the first selection to carry in the store, and he was just as mesmerized as I was. First, Marie-Hélène showed us the stones themselves, and then the dainty, signature, colorful pieces they are made into. She takes such obvious pleasure in the craftsmanship — which, if you haven't been lucky enough to make it into one of her shops, is documented beautifully in this book. Even the boxes are beautiful – robin's egg blue and teeny-tiny, with playful little fish and paisley-ish teardrops in bright red. It is much more exciting to me than Tiffany blue. Instead of being serious and intimidating and flashy, as so much fine jewelry can be, her stuff is cheerful and charming and incredibly special. I am crazy for her and I can't get enough of her things. So anyway, 3 years ago, Sid gave me the most beautiful, dangly, chandelier-esque drop earrings with 5 stones, similar to these, but made of pale pink morganite. I loved them immediately, and they are extra special for the 5-stones-for-5-daughters theme. (I am big on that sort of thing – there's always a symbol! even if I've made it up myself!)
MHT makes more accessible pieces, too, and in addition to those amazing earrings, I have been given her signature charm bracelets for my wrists – a tiny gold cat, a heart that has since been lost. They are very dainty, and live on simple nylon cords, so the downside is that they can disappear if you wear them 24/7 as I do… I have reframed those in my mind as those silly "wish bracelets" that are supposed to fall off eventually, so that there is something nice about accidentally casting them off into the universe. I told you I'm big on a symbol! I am currently wearing a fox and another cat, this one with a little jewel. They are sweet and low-key and a bit like a friendship bracelet.
The earrings I wear nearly every day are a pair of small round drops. They give just a little sparkle, without being too heavy for my ears. I dress a bit tomboy-ish most days (especially lately,) and these feel so feminine and pretty sitting above the collar of a plain white shirt. I love the contrast of wearing something that looks special – but not too precious – with the simplest things in my wardrobe. A plain t-shirt or a striped shirt – a crewneck sweater if it is cold - and a pair of cropped jeans with cowboy-ish boots, and a pair of MHT earrings is my idea of looking perfectly like myself. The tiny ones for everyday, and the chandelier or drop ones when I want a bit more sparkle. I love them for evening – they look particularly amazing with a silk blouse – but truly my favorite is on a regular Tuesday morning. You get to a certain age, and you think – why am I not treating myself to the pretty things in my jewelry box every day of the week?
My last piece of Marie-Hélène is the one with the most sentimental story. I lost my mother in May 2013, and then my father passed away, almost five years later to the day, so Mothers Day is an emotional time! It took another year for his will to finally settle, and when a bit of extra money showed up in my account, I remembered that there were the prettiest blue aquamarine earrings in the jewelry case in the Atlanta shop. These were a huge extravagance, and more money than thrifty me would have ever spent. We actually have a pair right now with less-precious stones that are not such a hard swallow. But these were exactly the color of both of my parents' eyes as well as my own. Since I hadn't passed blue eyes along to any of my girls, I thought it would be a nice symbol of something we all shared. And my father would have absolutely wanted me to buy something crazy like that. So I got them for myself, from him – it felt like this passage in my life needed something big to memorialize it. Like the other beautiful MHT pieces Sid has given me, they are a gift that keeps on giving. I wear them quite often, and they bring me such pleasure, day after day. Marie-Hélène makes the dreamiest things to give or to ask for… or to just get for yourself. It is no less special when you do.