When I was a little girl, I would play dress up with all my grandma’s jewelry. She has the most beautiful pieces, kept together so nicely, and often in their original packaging. We would spend hours going through those old jewelry boxes and I would try everything on. She would explain where it all came from and where she wore it. I thought it would be fun if I shared a little bit of her with you, so I interviewed her! Here’s what happened:
April: I know how much you love jewelry…my love for jewelry started way back in that trunk we used to dive through when I was a kid…when did your love of jewelry begin?
Grandma: With my Grandma Benning.Sometimes, when my parents went of town I would stay with my Grandma and Grandpa Benning, you know just like you did with us.I would go into my grandmother’s bedroom and she would be brushing out her hair and she had this beautiful ruby necklace and matching ring right on her vanity that granddad had bought for her.I would just stare at it.She would let me play with it when I was younger and I would say “One day I’d like to have that necklace”.Grandma Benning gave to me when she died and I still have that necklace now.
I didn’t think too much about other jewelry until I admired my Aunt Alice’s earrings. She always wore the same diamond earrings. No matter what she wore, those earrings would come with her. I don’t know what happened to those diamond earrings now but when I got my ears pierced when I was much older, I wanted diamond earrings just like hers.
I have been collecting jewelry for so long…there is so much history in it. I got so much jewelry from my Aunt Helen and my mother. It was all passed down to me.
April: What is it about jewelry? Why do you love it so much?
Grandma: Oh I don’t know, it’s just a way of dressing up a pair of jeans. You know, you put on a nice sweater and you need a pair of earrings or a necklace so you don’t look so plain. I don’t feel like I’m finished getting dressed until i have earrings and a necklace on.
When I started working up at Calico in 1975 I found my love for Black Hills Gold. That was my vice. I loved it. I started with turquoise and then went to Black Hills Gold. I just loved dressing in those 1800’s clothes for work. Us ladies that worked there at Calico always loaded ourselves down with Black Hills Gold and turquoise; it was just the thing that all us girls did.
April: What is your favorite piece of jewelry you own?
Grandma: Oh, probably my Black Hills Gold wrist watch that your grandpa got me when he retired.
April: How do you feel about what I do with old jewelry?
Grandma: Oh, I think it’s great! Jewelry shouldn’t be tucked away in a box or a dresser drawer. Jewelry needs to be shared. What good is having jewelry like that, very old jewelry like that, if you can’t share it. Old jewelry has a history and the history is so interesting when its passed down from one family to another.
April: What’s the oldest piece of jewelry you have? The silver necklace you gave to me?
Grandma: Yes it came from your Great-Great-Great Grandmother Gibson and it’s from the late 1800’s That necklace may not have even originated here in the states. I’m surprised its held together so well…Grandma Gibson or Grandma Benning were actually the last ones to have wore that necklace before you did. Your Grandma Gibson’s family lived the gypsy life…they followed the crops in a horse and wagon. They traveled between Santa Cruz and Canby, Oregon. Grandma Gibson came from a well to-do family from Illinois, they had the most beautiful clothing.
April: What’s one thing you want me to remember? About your story? Your jewelry? Your love of jewelry?
Grandma: Oh, I would want you to remember how many times you and I went through the jewelry in the dresser drawers, and the trunk, and all the jewelry boxes; how much we enjoyed having fun, and how you enjoyed dressing up in my clothes, and the old time-y shoes, making cookies, and taking you birthday shopping.
The time that we spent with our grandchildren, so many grandchildren don’t have, your children are so lucky that they are able to go places with their grandma and grandpa and that your parents are young enough to do things with them. Your Grandpa Sandridge didn’t have that. It meant a lot to him that he got to spend time with his grandchildren. His family was all separated so he didn’t have that closeness like we did.
We spent the rest of our conversation reminiscing about our trips to the mall for those birthday shopping adventures and it made me think: I can’t remember one actual “gift” my grandparents bought me. I don’t remember any toys I begged them for or any of those CD’s I just had to have.
I remember the time I spent with them.
I remember standing in my grandma’s kitchen learning how to bake, I remember sitting on the edge of my grandma’s bed looking through her jewelry, and I remember listening to grandpa share stories of his childhood working on a dairy farm. I can still smell their home. The mix of coffee and potpourri. (That’s really the only way I know how to describe it! There isn’t a word that fits right!)
This is where it’s at y’all. The experiences, the memories, the smells, the feelings. This is what sticks with us, all these years later.