>> Thursday, December 18, 2014
This is a re-post from last year. You may or may not have already read it, but as I put these earrings on the other day for their inaugural 2014 wearing, I was reminded again of the beautiful story behind them...
I change my earrings only once a year.
For 11 months each year, I wear simple, brushed stainless steel "huggies" and small, square, white gold studs. (Yes, I have two extraneous holes per lobe. It was trendy at one point in time, honest!) But every December, I exchange the huggies for a very special pair of earrings...
Eons ago, after my one and only year of university, I got my first job at The Big City's première electronics store, where I stayed for almost five years. Initially, I worked as a cashier/switchboard operator, and before the days of computer automation, that was a pretty demanding job. Especially in December!
In those days ~ and perhaps even now if there haven't been too many renovations in the intervening years ~ the cashier's counter extended into the auto electronics section of the store and was shared with the automotive installation desk. The door to the installation garage was beside that section of the counter and as a result, the cashiers and auto-installers saw a lot of each other.
One of those installers was an older Vietnamese immigrant, who was working hard to send money to his family back home in hopes that one day they would be able to join him in Canada. After a few years of working his full-time job in the installation department, he lobbied successfully to get the store's after-hours cleaning contract as well. He was a small, sweet man with a somewhat limited command of the English language and a very strong accent.
The store was open till 9 every night during the week, and until I moved up into the administrative offices, I worked two or three evenings every week. Those were usually relatively slow hours at the store and since "Coon" was there every evening to clean, we often got to visit a little here and there. He was difficult to understand and tended not to talk much because he knew his communication skills were limited, but as time progressed, I gradually got to know a little more about him ~ his family, his time as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam war, and his coming to Canada.
Much of his story I've already forgotten, but he had not had an easy life, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet his attitude remained positive. It was unusual to hear him talk about the harder things he'd experienced because he made a conscientious effort to speak of his hopes rather than his suffering.
One night in early December after we'd all left, he happened across a jewelers' box in the parking lot just outside the installation garage door. He brought it to the cash counter the next morning and showed us the beautiful Christmas tree earrings nestled on black velvet inside. Undoubtedly they'd been dropped by a customer and since they were personalized with birthstones, we imagined someone would be inquiring about them. The store manager instructed us to keep the earrings at the desk until Christmas. No one ever called.
On Boxing Day, the height of shopping frenzy up here in Canada, the earrings were returned to Coon towards the end of the day, since he'd been the one who found them. He carried them around with him until closing and as we breathed a sigh of relief and began cashing out our tills after the doors had been locked, he shyly approached me and handed me the box. In his accented, broken English, he said he wanted me to have them. I knew his wife had passed away years earlier and he had only sons back in Vietnam, but I protested and suggested he keep them for a relative or a future daughter-in-law.
With glistening eyes, he pushed them back across the counter to me and said, "No, they are for you. If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be just like you."
And so they became mine, these "daughter's pride"-style Christmas tree earrings from a lonely immigrant who had no daughter, and certainly no spare change to spend on gifts for co-workers. These Christmas tree earrings with three coloured gemstones in each, which ~ if not the exact ones ~ happen to fairly closely match the birthstones of myself, my mom, and my dad.
I am honoured to wear them every December and each time I put them on for the first time, I think of my old friend Cuong ~ whose name we could never really pronounce properly ~ and silently wish him a merry Christmas.
>> Sunday, December 14, 2014
This will be the first Christmas in a while that I don't treat myself to any new Christmas music (probably because I went a little crazy last year and bought 5 new CDs!!), but despite that, I've found my favourite Christmas 2014 song.
It seems each year, either I hear a new one that I instantly love and can't stop listening to, or for whatever reason, a familiar one just grips me in a way it hasn't before. (and I can't stop listening to it!) Such is the case with this one: