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Hope Yancey
Aug 27, 2012

A Footnote to Family History

I began blogging for ACA in December 2010, just a few months after my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. I want to share a story from those difficult months that followed, and how something good emerged – in a small way – even in a time of grief:

Silvery in color, it was a filigree necklace, metalwork with a fragile, lacy design, on a thin, delicate chain. It looked to be from the Edwardian period, lasting from the early 1900s until World War I. In the center of the necklace was what appeared to be a tiny diamond chip.

An attractive piece, this was someone’s family heirloom separated from its rightful owner for the last 50 years, and it was time for it to go home. “Correcting history,” my mother called it. She teaches history, and is a fierce preservationist when it comes to her own ancestors’ artifacts. She recognized filigree detail when she saw it, owning a couple of rectangular filigree bar pins herself, inherited from her mother and aunt.

While he was a college student about 1960, and before he met my mother, my father had dated a young woman also attending school in the same area. Their relationship ended, but not before the woman gave him an antique necklace that had belonged to her grandmother. It was obviously feminine, not meant for him to actually wear, and likely intended as a keepsake. He lost track of her before having an opportunity to give back her gift.

The years passed, full of plenty of distractions. He never saw or heard from the person from whom he had received the necklace again, and he and my mother seldom thought of it. It was just there – somewhere. Several times it would disappear, after a move or some other life circumstance, always resurfacing. My mother isn’t sure when she first became aware of it. Occasionally, they considered whether they ought to return it, but weren’t certain where to address it, and like most people, were occupied with other priorities.

After my father died, efforts got under way to sort belongings. Months afterward, my mother thought to locate the owner of the necklace. But she had to find it first. Lost again, it later turned up inside a pink bandbox. It saddened her to think of this woman having given away a cherished family object in what she imagined might have been a “youthful impulse,” probably the subject of subsequent regret. “If it were my grandmother’s, I would be wearing it,” she added. Was the owner of the necklace still alive? Would she remember? Would she want it back after so much time had passed? The answer, it turned out, would be yes to all three.

With help from a sympathetic college alumni office employee, and some online sleuthing of her own, it did not take my mother long to find the person she sought. She composed a letter, offering her email address, and within a couple days received a reply in her inbox. “Most people would not have bothered to do what you are doing,” came the grateful response.

The necklace was packaged carefully, carried to the post office, and sent on its way. It is satisfying to think of it being where it belongs, with someone who never expected to see it again. Now history has a filigree footnote.

And, with that, I will say goodbye for now. I have enjoyed my time as a blogger for this site, and thanks to all who read.

Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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