Jewelry as Art: The Hollycraft Christmas Brooch CollectionApril 5, 2013
A Conversation with JUDITH HENDLER by Matthew BurkholzApril 12, 2013
Back in 1988, I was married with a 7 year-old son making my way in the world producing and directing musical theatre on Long Island, N.Y. My only collection of vintage jewelry was the legacy passed down from my mother, who passed away in 1985. All of her fine jewelry had disappeared over the years as home health care aides came and went (rather quickly), for my mother was ill for most of the time I remember her. My meager collection consisted mostly of costume pieces given to her by my father from all his business travels around the world.
At that time it was my routine to wait until my husband came home from work, kiss him and my son goodbye, and leave for rehearsal. I usually returned late at night with everyone asleep, and the particular night I’m thinking of was no different than the rest.
The next morning, however, I awoke to my son bouncing on parts of me that really couldn’t tolerate bouncing at any hour, whispering, “Mommy, can you put back the VCR so I can watch a tape, pleeeeaaase?”
Opening one eye, I replied, “Mommy didn’t take the VCR to rehearsal, sweetheart. Pleeeeaaase stop bouncing on me and go back to sleep.” And promptly shut the one eye that managed to take control of this early morning situation.
“Yes, you did.” He insisted. “Can I watch my tape, pleeeeeaaaaase?” The one eye opened again. “Honey, I didn’t take the VCR.”
Realize, in 1988, the video camera required the entire VCR as a “portable device” to tape AND it had to be plugged into a power source… just a moment to share how far we’ve come electronically in the past 23 years. It was typical of me to borrow our video camera and VCR to tape the actors so I could review blocking and bring back notes to the actors. However, in this case, I left the house the previous night, leaving the video camera and VCR at home.
I hear my husband at the bedroom door, “What do you mean you didn’t take the video camera and VCR?” Now both eyes are open.
“I didn’t take them. What’s going on?”
“Well, they’re missing,” he said.
“What do you mean, missing?” I ask, still half asleep and still a human trampoline.
“Missing,” he said, sounding a little annoyed, “as in NOT THERE.”
I get up. We all head for the family room to look at the VCR that’s not there. Sure enough, it’s not.
“And why did you lock Chipper in the basement?” asks the husband. Chipper is the family dog, a perky West Highland Terrier, whose care and feeding usually fell to, you guessed it, me.
“Why would I lock Chipper in the basement?” I ask, feeling like I’m performing in some Jean-Paul Sartre, Act 1 Scene 2 existentialist drama, like “No Exit.”
“Well, that’s where we found him last night when we got home from the movies.”
“And was the VCR missing then?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he said, “I didn’t watch TV last night, but I did hear something after I went to sleep, like something falling and this morning one of the bolsters on the water bed had fallen off. I thought that was odd.” It was 1988. There was a water bed.
We looked at each other and a cold sense of dread filled me. “What ELSE is missing?” I asked.
You have to imagine the scenario: the dog was locked in the basement; little thing that he was, he was tenacious and would follow anyone anywhere. The VCR was missing and mommy didn’t take it. The bolster fell off the water bed as if something had happened to displace it from its secure position…
The idea that we had been burgled in the short time that my husband and son went to the movies, while I was at rehearsal, began to dawn on us both.
It was a clever burglary. All my jewelry was gone, the boxes emptied and put back in the drawers made it look as if I had some bizarre box hoarding disorder. Nothing was thrown about, nothing out of place. It was eerie, opening each and every box to discover them all empty, and yet, all neatly put away as if no one had intruded on our privacy; as if nothing had been touched. And yet, it had; they had.
If you’ve ever been the victim of a burglary, you know that some items come to mind immediately, while others take some time to realize. As you write the lists for the police and the insurance company, you gasp, and say, “Oh no, I forgot about…” and you think of the piece of jewelry that you didn’t wear often but kept safe in your drawer or jewelry box… it takes weeks for that process to complete itself, each realization a heartache.
Of course, it was my mother’s jewelry that most impacted me. She was gone; it was gone. Getting rid of the empty boxes one day quite some time after the burglary, I spied something in the corner of a drawer that had me catch my breath. It was an earring. It was one of my mother’s jade earrings that my father brought back from South America.
The burglars, who I prayed everyday had died of an apparent drug overdose after selling off my jewelry (that was my scenario my way of coping – they were never caught and the jewelry never found), missed this one earring. Perhaps it fell out of the box; perhaps I didn’t put it back in the box. Nevertheless, here it was.
It became my symbol; a memory of my mother and I kept it for many years in a box in the drawer. After many more years, I decided to have it made into a ring.
The first jeweler I took it to listened to my story, frowned, and said helpfully, “It’s not a very good piece of jade. I wouldn’t bother.” Wrong answer, jeweler. The jade earring and I left with-out a word. You’d be surprised how many jewelers weren’t interested in making the earring into a ring. It wasn’t worth their time and effort.
As I thought to give up, I finally found a jeweler, a Russian lady, who listened to my story and said, “This is a very important earring. I will make you a beautiful ring.” She made a sterling silver ring with a 14k gold bezel and set the jade oval horizontally be-cause it would be a large ring and I have short fingers. Today, it is still one of my favorite rings and when it is complimented (often!), I tell the story of the burglary, the jewelers and my mother.
As I write this, the day before Mother’s Day, I am grateful for this legacy she left me. All her costume jewelry would not seem as precious as this ring, which bears its special significance. I also think of the jeweler who had the heart to hear my story and know that it was not the value of the piece of jade that compelled me to pursue making a ring; it was the value of the memory of my mother.
Visit Linda Lombardo on her website Worn to Perfection – www.etsy.com/shop/worn2perfection.