Elsa Peretti, Every Day

I used to admire those people who wore one very special piece of jewelry every day – that one piece that was so meaningful to them they could never imagine taking it off. I think this infatuation came with my infatuation with little orphan Annie and the broken locket she never took off throughout her hard knocks life great depression years in the orphanage and later at Daddy Warbucks’ mansion.

I believed I had stumbled upon my forever one special piece when my parents gave me the Elsa Peretti gold heart necklace pendant for my 16th birthday. I was mesmerized by the Tiffany blue box and by the extremely generous and thoughtful gesture my parents made to me. I decided then and there – January 23, 1990 that I would never take off the heart. And I didn’t.

I wore it every day. I slept in it. I showered in it. I wore it in the summer with my super classy v-neck white men’s under shirts and in the winter dangling out of the folded over neck part of my 100% cotton white L.L. Bean turtlenecks. I wore it throughout all four years of college despite the night I returned home to my dorm room only to discover it wasn’t around my neck. I managed to re-trace my steps halfway back to the party I had attended earlier that night where I found the gold heart and chain lying on the cobblestone path in the center of campus. I felt like I had averted some great tragedy that night in finding the missing heart.

The heart became a part of me. It made me feel safe and loved, and then it got a little weird. I felt comforted by it. I started to play with the heart moving it around the chain on my neck in some kind of self-soothing ritual. I convinced myself that nothing could go wrong if I had the heart on. But then, things went wrong.

My mother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer less than two years after I graduated from college. I continued to wear the heart pendant every day, playing with it more than ever and worrying more than ever too. The heart and the mystical powers I gave it couldn’t protect my mother from the cancer. Nothing could.

I took the heart off at some point in 2006. I took it off partly because my then toddler son and baby daughter played with it and pulled on it too much and partly because I wanted to wear other necklaces and the layering look with the old sweet sixteen heart wasn’t doing it for me anymore. But really I took it off because I didn’t feel like I needed it anymore. I wasn’t looking for any kind of comfort or special powers from it. Just like Dorothy, another character I was infatuated with as a child, I realized that I always had the power in me. I didn’t need a necklace to make me feel it.

Just a few months ago, I took the heart necklace out of the small blue Tiffany pouch stored in a larger old makeup bag, which I keep in my top dresser drawer. I lent it to my now ten-year-old daughter to wear to her brother’s Bar Mitzvah. It looked really pretty on her, and I think she liked it when I told her how I wore it every day when I was younger. After the Bar Mitzvah, I told her she could keep it and wear it on special occasions if she wanted to. She smiled, gave it back to me and then went on about with the business of being her. She hasn’t asked me about it since.

She doesn’t seem to be looking for something like I was. I hope she won’t. If she does though, I will surely give her the necklace, for as long as she needs it.