TATI SAVED two paychecks for that silver necklace for Mama. She kept calling me and wanting me to go in on it, but I don’t do presents, even for Mama, and besides, that necklace was going to have charms with the names of the grandkids and I don’t have children and I never will. I think kids are cute on other people, but I think that about kittens, too, and there’s just too many of ’em. Tati, she has three, and our older sister Mellia only has one now. Tati kept askin’ me should she get four charms or five and I said I’m staying out of it, but that I thought Illya is still a grandkid even though you can’t ever see him again. Tati thought Mama would feel bad when people asked about the necklace and she would have to explain about Illya so she just bought four of those silvery charms, which was cheaper anyway. The charms were little disks with daisy-like edges, each with the name engraved real pretty and a tiny birthstone. Alma’s is an emerald, Jake’s is a peridot, Callie’s a pearl, and Orly’s a ruby. Illya’s a diamond, which would’ve jacked up the price. The whole thing didn’t seem right. Personalized doo-dads don’t set well with me for a couple reasons. One, it’s like bragging. And two, putting names on things seems like a store’s way to keep makin’ money off you ’cause you always got to buy your own and you can’t ever sell it back to nobody.
At the birthday dinner after the wine and cake and presents I could see Mellia was real mad but she didn’t say a thing for a long time. She stayed in one dining room chair the whole night watching Mama’s neck. A week later she called me and was crying and sayin’ she gave birth to two kids and diapered them both and had to keep diapering one and pushing his wheelchair until he was 6 years old. I told her she was tellin’ the wrong person, I’m stayin’ out of it. I called up Tati, who didn’t get why all the hard feelings about a little necklace, and I told her she got to think about somebody else for a change. Tati and me bought the fifth charm together since Tati was mostly out of money. She said she’d try to pay me back. At Friday dinner next, I could see Mama was glad that us girls weren’t fightin’ and she wore the necklace with all five of the charms. Mellia sighed and got tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. I told Tati she didn’t have to pay me back.
Alisa Golden teaches printmaking at California College of the Arts and is an MFA candidate in creative writing at San Francisco State University. She lives with her family in Albany.
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