The gold filigreed locket glistened amongst the treasures collected in the rich jewel box, it’s crushed royal velvet lining, though worn, only added charm. Rachael picked up the piece recalling when she’d received it, as a tear made it’s way down her cheek. She forced a smile then bowed her head surrendering to the tears, allowing her heart to mourn.
Rachael wasn’t ready to say goodbye, there was so much she had planned to do…..but plans change. As her sobs subsided, Rachael examined the beautiful necklace, it’s braided gold chain accented the heart shaped locket. Rachael used her polished nail to open it, looking into the eyes of the most giving loving woman she’d ever known, her mother. “ Mom, it’s Christmas, how do I get through this without you?” Rachael sighed shaking her head. Was the locket even appropriate to wear for a funeral? It had always been a treasured gift, an heirloom passed along with time. Rachael placed her mother’s locket around her neck, struggling with the clasp.
Mark’s warm and tender hands touched her neck, as he lightly kissed the top of her bare shoulder. Looking up into the reflection of her vanity mirror, Rachael smiled at the man she’d chosen to share her life. “I can fasten it honey, you okay?” he murmured fastening her locket around her neck for her. Mark’s hand lingered on Rachael’s shoulders, looking back at her through the same reflective mirror. “I love you, you are so good to me,” Rachael whispered blinking back tears. Mark turned Rachael to him, pulling her up into his strong arms holding her, gently stroking her graying Auburn hair. Still a vision of loveliness, Mark always saw the girl he asked to marry him in her soft brown eyes. “We have to do this, honey….are you okay?” Mark repeated releasing Rachael, so she could finish dressing, wearing only her bra, a slip, and her nylon stockings. The funeral was in two hours, and they had to be there early.
“Yes I’m okay….it’s just, I wish I had more time….seems that’s the one thing you can never have enough of.” Rachael moved to her closet and selected a dress she would wear. Nothing bold, a dark blue straight flowing shift, with a high neckline, no collar it wouldn’t work with the necklace. A few moments later she and Mark walked hand and hand to their car. Mark opened Rachael’s door for her, making sure she was safely inside before shutting the door. Rachael clutched her coat closer, she wasn’t cold, but felt comfort in the binding, her fingers softly clutched the locket as they drove.
Lost in her thoughts Rachael’s memories of another Christmas filled her mind. She was 20 she and Mark had announced their plans to marry, and mom decided after Christmas dinner it was time to pass the necklace along.
Of course the story of the locket had to be retold as well, and Rachael listened intently, as she caressed her treasured possession. A faint smile stole across her face as Rachael remembered the story, Mark wondered what had made her smile, but left Rachael to her thoughts, they were obviously a happy memory.
Her mother started the tale, “ This locket is more than a piece of jewelry honey, it’s a story of great love, and pride destined to all who will wear it.”
“Tell me mom, I want to hear the story,” Rachael encouraged her mother to continue. Her mom smiled and gently played with Rachael’s curled locks flowing over her shoulders. Rachael’s mom playing with her hair, was a comforting gesture the two women shared over the years.
Her mother continued smiling warmly, “ It was nearly Christmas, the streets were lit with twinkling lights, the tree in the park, glistened as carolers gathered to sing songs of love and peace. It was dark times for all, but you would never know, as the spirit of Christmas really isn’t about presents and gift giving. It’s about love and having the ones you love surround you, as you celebrate the holiday. Still James was dead set on buying his mother a gift for Christmas. At only 12, he was too young to work in the factory, and since he was not strong, he was not picked to help deliver ice to the ice boxes, in the early morning hours. James ventured forth on his own, shoveling walks, running errands for pennies, doing what he could for hard earned cash. His mother was ill, and his dad worked long hours overtime to help pay for the bills, and medicine his mother now depended on.”
Rachael shifted getting comfortable as her mother paused, giving Rachael a hug before continuing.
James had worked all summer and fall, collecting money to buy gifts for his family for Christmas, a noble gesture. Buying mittens, and scarves for his two brothers and sister, James scored a nice pocket knife for his father. Feeling confident, James walked into the jewelry store, his eyes bright as he gazed upon the glistening pieces shining up at him through the glass. “We don’t give handouts….and we have no work, be gone boy,” the proprietor wanted this haggard looking boy out of his store, as he didn’t want James disrupting his customers, sales were down for him this year as well.
“No sir, I’m looking to buy a gift for my mother, she’s quite sick and I wanted to get her something lovely to wear,” James explained smiling jubilantly. Reluctantly the store owner waited on James, who asked to see many necklaces. “You really have money boy, I’ll not waste my time here,” the man seemed gruff and condescending, yet James was unaffected by him.
That’s when James saw it, this very necklace glistening, and he knew it was the one for his mother. “This one…how much is it?” James asked opening the heart shaped locket, Yes this would do just fine.
The owner glared at James sternly, grabbing back the necklace from the boy’s hands. “That piece sells for twenty dollars, it’s solid gold, you can’t afford it boy. Here take a look at some of our costume jewelry, I’m sure you can find something here.” The man directed James to the lesser pieces, and moved on to help someone else. James was heartbroken, he only had four dollars left, and although the pieces of jewelry were nice James wanted that gold locket for his mom.
Determined, James thought to strike a deal, he walked up to the owner and interrupted him making a sale. “Excuse me sir…all I have is four dollars, could you let me have that locket for my mom, I’ll work all next year for you to pay for the rest of it, please sir. I love my mom, and she deserves the best sir.” The lady, to whom the clerk was trying to sell an expensive piece, smiled and walked away from the man and the boy. The woman continued listening, to the dialog between the boy and the man, as she admired other pieces. “Boy….I told you, I’m not hiring, look I need to sell jewelry, if you can’t afford it you can’t buy it….so just run along. Sorry about your mother, I can’t help you.” The man gripped James by the shoulders, escorting him out of his store, James protesting the entire time. “But sir….I promise I’m a good worker….I would come everyday.” The man didn’t listen, depositing James at the curb, as he hurried back inside.
Dejected James slumped onto the sidewalk pouting, holding his face in his hands. His hands were a bit soiled, he’d help carry coal for a man earlier in the day. James had washed, but the charcoal remained etched into the lines of his fingers. Unexpectedly tears began to fall, spilling down his cheeks, mixing with his stained hands leaving smudges, when he reached to wipe them. Across the street in the park, carolers began singing Silent Night, it was James’ favorite he and his mother always sang it. Knowing he should join in, James just couldn’t bring himself to move, he didn’t feel like singing.
A few moments later the lady, whom he had interrupted stepped from the store, shifting packages in her arms. She wore a fur coat, and high heels, her hair was swept up in curls, as if she’d just visited a beauty parlor. She wore sweet smelling perfume that proceeded her, as she stood next to James who was still pouting. James was surprised when she spoke to him, “Young man, were you serious in the store. Would you really work for that awful man just to buy your mother that necklace?” The woman’s eyes were kind, even though she was definitely not hurting for money.
“Yes…I would, and he’s not so awful, just worried about money like everyone else. I don’t know how to make enough money to buy the necklace for my mom….she would love it, she’s been so sick.” James shrugged and sniffed his tears, wiping his face again. The woman smiled seeing the smudges on James’ anguished face, an honest loving soul, rare in these times.
“Well, I may be able to help….I have a lot of packages, and more shopping to do. Would you come with me and carry my packages, if you do I will pay you.” James shot to his feet instantly, a smile replacing his sullen pout. “Yes mame I can,” James answered taking her packages, after washing off his hands in the icy cold snow, seeing how the charcoal was staining everything he touched. James didn’t want to mark any of her fancy wrapped packages.
James carried the lady’s packages the rest of the afternoon, visiting store after store, his arms happy to relinquish their burden when she was finally through. Hailing a cab, James placed the lady’s purchases into the cab for her, expecting to get paid then. “Oh….my I only have enough for the cab fare in change….Will you meet me by the jewelry store at say 1:00 tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have your money then okay?” James nodded, closing the cab door, watching it speed off leaving him empty handed. He felt like he’d just got swindled, surely that lady would not show up tomorrow.
Getting home, James went to his mother hugging her, she was making supper, even though she was ill, she still insisted on doing household chores. James helped whenever he could. “How is my hard working man hummm?” Mom asked smiling, she could always make James feel wonderful. “Okay….mom what do you want for Christmas, I need to buy you something yet.” James felt maybe there was something else he could get that his mom would like, even though he really wanted that necklace for her.
“Oh honey….you don’t have to get me a gift….your love is enough. I know times are hard this year, I’m sorry for that. Go put on the radio will you, while I finish this.” James did as he was told, and shortly after, their favorite carol sang out from the radio’s speakers. James looked up at his mom, and she smiled nodding. She went to James hugging him as they both sang Silent Night content in each other’s arms. James fell asleep that night praying to find the perfect gift for his mother, as tomorrow was Christmas Eve.
James was at the jewelry store at 1:00, waiting patiently till 1:15 before he decided the lady with the fur coat was not coming. Just as he turned his back to leave, he smelled her perfume and twirled around. “Sorry I’m late, un I have a few more things to buy….could you come along and carry my things again, please James?” James sighed, he had to shop too, and the stores closed at 5:00, but he agreed just the same. At 4:00 the church bells chimed, and the lights were coming on, as it was nearly dark. “Um, I have to go soon, I still have a gift to buy,” James said as he juggled the woman’s packages.
“Your mom yet?” the lady asked and James nodded. “Well she’s a very lucky lady to have a wonderful son like you. Oh here’s a cab, I think I’m done.” The lady motioned for the cab and James put in her packages, as he did the day before. Lingering on the sidewalk, looking anxiously at the kind looking woman. I hope she didn’t spend all her money today.
Reaching in her coat pocket, the woman said, “I hope you don’t mind, I don’t have cash to give you….will this do,” The lady handed James a blue velvet box, the name of their jewelry store etched on the lid in gold lettering. “Open it, go ahead,” The lady encouraged. James opened the box and inside was the very necklace he could not afford to buy. “How did you know….but this was so expensive. I only carried your packages for two days,” James could not believe the generosity of this strange woman, or his great luck.
“Merry Christmas James….as I said your mother should be proud of you, I know I would be,” with that the lady drove away and James never saw her again. James thought of that woman every Christmas there after, when he and his mother would hold each other and sing Silent Night.
Rachael wiped a tear that escaped her eye, Mark’s hand found hers holding on tightly. “We’ll get through this, I promise,” he whispered pulling up to the funeral home. They did get through it, and a week later on Christmas Eve, Rachael asked her daughter Emily to help her with something. Emily excused herself from her young family, two fine grandsons, and a doting husband. “Mom, what do you need hummm?” Emily asked softly, as they went into her mother’s room.
Emily sat on her mom’s bed, it’s velvet bedspread still soft as she recalled. Rachael reached for her jewel box, and Emily witnessed her taking out the locket.
“Mom, that’s grandma’s locket…it’s so beautiful,” Emily remarked she’d always admired it, when she’d look through her mother’s things as a little girl.
“Well yes and no honey. This locket is more than a piece of jewelry, it’s a story of great love, and pride destined to all who will wear it.” Rachael smiled at Emily placing the locket around Emily’s neck fastening it.
Then she told the story of The Christmas Locket, to her daughter, passing on the love and pride to a new generation, Rachael knew it would be what her mother wanted, Merry Christmas Mom…….