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Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Lost Pearl

My husband is not a man who places great value in material things.  He doesn't have the latest thingamajig or whatchamacallit.  He doesn't covet gadgets or doohickeys.  He honestly doesn't bat an eye at the latest car, electronic device, golf clubs, boats, or whatever it is that makes other people's worlds spin.  Give him a roof over his head, a way to support his family, a great Hefeweizen, and some time well-spent with good friends or loved ones, having a laugh, and Charlie's a content man.

I preface this story with a bit about Charlie so that you will understand what a HUGE deal it is for him to spend money on jewelry.  Luckily, I've never been one to go ga-ga over jewelry myself.  I can count on one hand the number of pieces of finery I have that have any value, be it monetary or sentimental.  My engagement ring, though not very expensive...we were kids and it was what we could afford...has a great deal of meaning to me because of the amazing effort and the sheer romance of the way he gave it to me.  My 25th anniversary wedding band, which I fell in love with while we were on a trip to Mexico with my sister and brother-in-law, brings priceless memories to mind everytime I look down at my hand.  My Hawaiian heirloom necklace, which Charlie bought for me on our first anniversary, while on our first trip to Hawai'i together.  Whatever piece it may be, there is always a story that comes with it that has much more sentimental value than the dollar sign attached to it.  This particular piece, a pearl pendant, is no exception.

When I found my birth family, we quickly went about the business of making plans to go to Hawai'i and meet everyone.  I was especially anxious to meet my mother; Pearl.  As many of you know, it was a perfect trip, full of love and laughter.  My family welcomed us with so much warmth and aloha that to this day, it still feels as if we were always a part of each other's lives.  I spent a good deal of time sitting with my mother, listening to family stories, learning about my history, and making up for 40 plus years of lost time. 

On the next trip back to the islands, we were walking around Haleiwa Town with my sister Loke and her husband Phil, enjoying the day, and popping in and out of the little shops in the north shore village.  Charlie, who is absolutely fascinated by pearls, called me into a little store that specialized in the many varieties of the lustrous gem of the sea.  He found two pendants in particular that he was especially drawn to; a black Tahitian pearl, and a freshwater disc (coin) pearl.  I thought they were lovely, but the cost was far too dear, and I kept walking away from them.  In fact, I kept walking out of the store, and Charlie kept calling me back.

Charlie:  "Listen, you know me.  Jewelry's not something I think of as a gift.  Which is why you don't have all that much.  But this has a little more significance, so hear me out."

Pua:  (smiling because I know a sales pitch is coming) "Go ahead.  I'm listening."

Charlie:  "We're here, in Hawai'i, because you've just found your family.  That's a big deal, isn't it?"

Pua:  (nodding)  "Yes.  A very big deal."

Charlie:  "Your mom's name is Pearl.  We're here in Hawai'i.  Two things that will always bring happy memories.  Right?"

Pua:  "You're good, Huffine, but that's a bit spendy, don't you think?."

Charlie:  "Eh, spendy-schmendy.  How often do we buy for US?  Let me get these for you.  I know you don't need trinkets to remember...but this?....well, this is some important stuff.  And I want to do this."

Twenty minutes later, escorted by my very proud husband, I walked out of that store wearing a simple, but lovely disc pearl pendant.  That was 7 years ago, and that pearl is still one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.  Cut to last week...

Wednesday was our anniversary, and even though we didn't have any big, romantic plans, I decided to wear my disc pearl out.  I giggled to myself because we went to an inexpensive little diner and had burgers, but I got "spiffied up" and wore my best necklace.  It made Charlie smile to see it on me.  He always notices when I wear it. 

On Thursday, I had a million "chores" to take care of, so I got an early start on the day.  First thing on my list, take all the cans and bottles to the recycle station.  Check.  Get some grocery shopping done.  Check.  Go to the post office.  Check.  The day went on like that until my very long "to do" list was complete.  Sometime that evening, as I was getting ready to jump in the shower, I realized that I didn't have a necklace on.  I ALWAYS have a necklace on, whether it's my everyday necklace or something special...I ALWAYS have a necklace on.  Then, the panic began to set in.  I stood there in the bathroom, with the shower running, taking an inventory of my day.  Oh no.  Ohhhhh no, please no.  I ran my hand over the bare spot on my chest where that pearl had hung only the night before. 

Usually, when I've worn my pearl pendant for a special night, I come right home and return it to its box, and put my "everyday" necklace back on.  But I remembered that when I got home, I didn't do that.  I kept my pearl on.  I went into the bedroom and tore our bed apart thinking that it might have come off in my sleep.  The adrenaline was pumping, that new, scared-to-death feeling was washing over me and I was doing all I could to stay calm and not lose it.  I tore the house apart, I pulled the cushions off the couches.  Nothing.  I went out to my car and looked everywhere.  Then I sat in the car and realized that I'd been to SO many places that day.  And even worse, I realized that I'd done the most asinine thing; I'd put that pearl pendant on a chain which had an "iffy" clasp.  I knew.  In fact, everyone knew that the clasp on that chain wasn't reliable.  The pendant that I usually wore would often come loose and everyone would go scrambling to help me find it.  Charlie and Wes would both tell me to get a new chain and I hemmed and hawed because my everyday pendant was inexpensive and if it got lost, I wouldn't be heartbroken.  But now, as I sat there in my car, I began to beat myself up about how stupid I'd been.  Even worse, I knew it was gone forever.  When I thought about all the places I'd been that day, I would never see that beautiful pearl again.  How would I tell Charlie?  I'm a world class idiot.  I cried.  I sat in my car and cried.

That night, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't tell Charlie.  I wouldn't tell anyone.  I'd keep my stupidity to myself.  I'd also keep my pain to myself.  Why make him suffer because I'd been so careless with something so valueable.  It wouldn't be the first time.  I once left a sapphire ring he'd bought for me when Averie was born, in a rental car in San Francisco.  So distraught was I when I realized it AFTER we'd already turned the car in and boarded our flight home, that I cried so much on the plane, the flight attendant thought I was an abused wife.  She kept asking me if I was okay and giving Charlie dirty looks.  So, this....this I was going to keep to myself.  Yeah, I'd feel guilty, but I was already paying.  No one could punish me as much as I was punishing myself.

After that sleepless night, I woke up on Friday and decided that I'd backtrack.  The effort would probably be futile, but, what did I have to lose?  So once everyone was out of the house, I took out my list from the day before and determined that I would go down the line.  First stop; the recycling center.  If you've ever been to a recycling center, you know that the chances of it still being there if that's where it dropped were akin to that of a snowball's survival rate in the Mojave desert.  It's not the best environment.  There hasn't been a time I haven't been approached by panhandlers there, and usually, there are loiterers who are scanning the ground closely for discarded cigarettes that might still have a few puffs left.  I imagined my pearl being picked up and traded for a pack of cigarettes or a pint of Jack from the corner liquor store.  Either that, or in that high-traffic zone, that delicate pearl had been run over so many times, that it was now a little circlet of white dust. 

I pulled up to the recycle center, parked the car, got out, and with my head down, started looking.  The guy that runs the recycle center was just getting ready to open, and I was the only one there.  He watched me for a few minutes as I walked around the parking lot.  I allowed myself ONE thought, and one thought only, and I sent that thought up directly to another pearl that I had lost many, many years ago;  "Mom, if you're watching, I would really appreciate it if you would help me find my pearl.  Actually, it's Charlie's pearl, but you know, if it's here, please help me find it." 

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I'm not much on that either.  I scoffed at myself while I was thinking it.  Ridiculous.  But, I was in an overwhelmingly anxious state of mind where I figured...what the hell?  The recycle center guy finally approached me.

Recycle Guy:  "You lose something, Honey?"

Pua:  "Yeah.  Do you remember me from yesterday?  I think I lost a pearl necklace while I was here."

Recycle Guy:  "I remember.  But, oh man, a pearl?  No way it would still be here.  Too much traffic through here, you know?

Pua:  "I know...but...I have to try."

He looked at me with a sad face, and then he put his head down to help me start looking.  Within seconds, I mean SECONDS, I looked down again and as if it had a light on it, there it was!  The pearl was in a little cement crevice in the middle of a wide expanse of black asphalt.  A white pearl, against white concrete.  What are the chances?  So many things were against it being found.  Not only found, but found intact.  It would have stood out more against the black asphalt, but I saw it clear as day, white against white.  It has a thicker nacre, so honestly, it should have been obliterated by motor traffic, but it only had a little tiny scratch in the lustre, barely noticeable.   When I picked it up, the recycle guy was stunned.  I was stunned!  I started to cry.  He started to jump up and down shouting; "No way!  Nooooo way!"  That's exactly how I felt.  With tears running down my face, I thanked him for his help.  He told me how lucky I was.  I looked up, kissed the pearl, and said; "Nah.  My mom was watching out for me.  She was always watching out for me."

I still haven't told anyone about this.  In fact, I'm still determined not to say anything to Charlie.  It's a great story though, and it happened just like this.  I brought the pearl home and put it in its box.  It's there right now.  I won't be wearing it until I get a proper new chain with a very reliable clasp.  The one pearl I "refound" left me way too soon.  I think of her often, and I miss her.  This little disc pearl that my husband bought for me to remind me of that other dearly precious Pearl?...I plan on keeping it near me for a good, long time.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

c m huffine & e e cummings are spot on

On Tuesday, Caris and I watched a movie.  I can't remember if I was watching it first and she joined me, or if it was the other way around.  Either way, we ended up sitting and watching "Hope Springs" with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep.  It's about a couple, married 31 years, who have, in essence, lost their way in their marriage.  They basically co-habitate.  Nothing more.  I suppose I sat and watched it because of the subject.  I don't usually watch movies in the middle of a weekday.  But, this is, after all, the week of our wedding anniversary.  So why not?

It wasn't too long into the movie where it became quite evident that they were making Tommy Lee's character out to be the "bad husband" and Meryl's character the "forgotten wife".  Caris instantly began to take offense, understandably.  The story was going on in a way that didn't put Tommy Lee in the best light and Meryl was definitely the long-suffering wife.  Caris made a comment about how she would never put up with that kind of treatment, and she would have left him.  I told her that we should wait awhile and see where it goes.  There is more to a marriage story than just one side.  Especially a long marriage.  I told her that her age group is obviously not the target demographic for this movie...that this was definitely targeted at people at the stage of life where Charlie and I are now.  I said to give the story a chance to pan out. 

Caris:  "Well, you and Daddy don't treat each other like that."

Pua:  "Yes, Honey.  I know.  But that doesn't mean that there haven't been some really hard times.  And if you love someone, you try to remember on a daily basis what it was about them that you fell in love with, or what you fell in LIKE with.  You don't just bail when it gets hard."

Caris:  "He's making me mad."

Pua:  "Yeah.  He's making me mad too.  But I bet there's a backstory.  And I bet she's not as innocent as it would appear.  It takes two.  It always takes two."

Sure enough, as the story unfolded, it became clear that there were hurts and scars under the surface that needed to emerge, and needed some working through.  Caris mentioned that there were parts that she didn't understand.  I told her that it was okay, because, again, I did, and really, I'm the target.  I appreciate those subtle nuances, the little looks that would mean nothing to someone who hadn't already spent three decades of their life with one person.  People get tired, complacent, forgetful.  Sometimes, it's just "easier" to stay in the rut.  It takes real courage to stay and fight for what you had, what you may have lost, and what you want back.

At one point, the marriage counselor asked Tommy Lee; "Have YOU done EVERYTHING you could possibly do?"  I said to Caris that's really the bottom line, right there.  It's hard to take a personal inventory.  It's hard to ask that question of yourself.  But it is the most important question when you're in an "ebb" in your relationship.  If you can honestly answer that you have done all that you can without any return, then perhaps, it is time to walk away.  I am of the opinion that you don't just stop loving someone.  It's not like a tap that you just turn off and twist tight.

As the movie finished, I knew that I wanted to talk to my best friend about it.  I knew that it would be a topic of conversation tonight.  Not just the movie, but Caris' reaction to it.  I was pretty sure she walked away unsatisfied and maybe a little disappointed, even if there was a happy ending.  I thought that maybe she couldn't understand, again, because she's not....us.

Yesterday, as we celebrated our anniversary, I was stunned to see a beautiful tribute from Caris on my Facebook newsfeed:

My parents may never win the lottery, be able to afford a house in Hawaii, have the car of their dreams, remodel their home, attend movie premiers or travel around the world. But they have one thing that everyone wants, everyone tries for, but so few will ever have. That one in a billion marriage that doesn't just last, but is full of genuine happiness, contentment, trust, honesty, respect, sillin...ess, fun and above all those things, love. Real best-friend-sweetheart-embarrass-your-kids kind of love. I know some people will go their entire lives without ever seeing, knowing or understanding the very best of what love can actually mean and be. And I will forever feel like one of three of the luckiest kids in the world, because I got grow up surrounded by it. So happy 31st anniversary to my mommy and daddy, whose example of love keeps my faith in it alive.
I sat and stared at it, teary-eyed for the longest time.  There it was, in black and white, bold as can be for the world to see.  Proof that she got the jist of it.  Caris isn't one that's prone to sentimentality.  Especially when it comes to relationships.  So to see these words of affirmation was a gift of value beyond measure.  I'm still bowled over by it.  Still touched to my soul. 
I will always believe that it takes real courage to stay and work through the hard stuff.  But, I also realize how lucky Charlie and I have been to have found our soulmate.  So, even the "hard stuff" became a moot point.  Yes, we work through them when they come.  However, I realize that it's been way easier for us than it has been for most people because we really, really LIKE each other.  I don't want to think about life without that silly goofball who says the dorkiest things, laughs at his own dumb jokes, hugs me from afar, winks at me from across the room, thinks that every ounce of me is gorgeous enough that other women don't turn his head, and every laugh line is something we earned together.  That "one in a billion" that Caris' nailed so beautifully in her note?  Yeah.  That and so much more.