by Rosemary Cappello
-- on "The Lost Earring"
Actually, Elise, the
woman who lost her earring, did leave many
relatives behind in Paris, and told me that her grandmother actually
after the vehicle she was driving away in, waving a handkerchief,
was the last she saw of her. But somehow I just couldn't write that
the poem, and the reader will just have to surmise that indeed Elise
leave her grandmother in Paris, and many relatives who died, later,
holocaust. The picture in the filigree frame is symbolic of them.
Elise at first went to
Switzerland, met her husband and married, and then
they had to escape from there under terrible circumstances. While
she suffered a miscarriage with such complications that she could
children after that. She has lived to a ripe old age, continues
around pretty well and visits relatives in Israel and France regularly.
Often, they visit her also, and I meet them when they do so.
She continues to dress
like a fashion plate; the imprint of her native city
is upon her. She is a true Parisienne.
Thinking about how she
is a survivor, it seems that we all, in one way or
another, are survivors.
My grandmother was
the shortest person
in our family,
except for me.
was to be bigger than she was.
How proud I
was when that day arrived. I stood
next to her
and Ecco! I was a hair taller.
When my grandmother
sat on her favorite chair
in the living
room, she placed one hand atop the other
on her lap.
I would compare our
hands. Hers were wrinkled,
scarce on flesh, with long fingers. Born
in the 19th Century, hers were hard working Southern
mine, modern convenience American.
Her hands had
dug into the mine of life. They added
inches to her
height. Gave her stature. Though she had
the hands for
it, she wasn't a pianist
in Italy, she
had no time for music. She oversaw
My father said she paid the workers
from a purse
dangling from her side.
In this country,
he saw to it that she always had money
in her pocket.
Here, we were her workers. She paid me for
aprons, $1.00 each. A good wage for those days.
As she handed me
the money, she said, "Ah! Che bella fatica!"
me to love work. Her hands and mine: there's
But from her I learned to appreciate them both.
From her I learned
to love all workers' hands.
One pearl close
to the earlobe
three others dangling from
separate silver chains
earrings delicate and dear
her husband gave her.
He's dead now;
died in her arms after
speaking warmly to her in her language.
She lost an earring. And doesn't care.
If it were I, I'd be sick! I said.
She told me,
then, why a
lost earring doesn't faze her.
About how she left Paris
the day her mother heard the news that
Jews had to register.
Her mother grabbed her; said
"We have to leave at once!"
She paused to pack her favorite things.
"No time to take anything!"
Not the stylish coats and dresses
her mother made for her.
Not even the picture of her grandmother
in the silver filigree frame.
They left at once, she, almost grown but still
young enough to turn back and pause, asking,
"Why must we leave everything behind?" Her mother
running back to grab her by the arm, saying
"Come! Now! We haven't time!"
back, she regrets abandoning
her grandmother's picture.
I try to be consoling, say, "You have it in your memory."
But her memory is fading, she sighs.
What's a lost
earring to her?
Our family didn't
have much money.
among our Christmas
The key word
where my grandmother was concerned.
she gave me the same gift:
six pairs of
The same plain, white panties
from Mr. Carlitz's
dry goods store on West Chester Pike.
I unwrapped the box,
thanked her, and
as was our
custom, kissed her hand. She smiled
her acceptance of my gratitude
for the gift
me, then, when
the first Christmas
after she died,
I found I actually
I missed it
even more when I
had to go out
and buy the annual supply of
My grandmother was gone.
Mr. Carlitz and his
store were gone. I was even
gone, not living
in that neighborhood anymore.
I had to start
becoming practical myself.