Mama's Pearls of Wisdom

The weatherman predicted afternoon thunderstorms for Savannah. Dark clouds rumbled. A dog howled. Tall stately Georgia pines bristled.

Everything moved outside but Mama even though we had to leave now to reach her doctor appointment across town.

“I can’t find my pearls,” Mama said and sprayed enough Chanel #5 to fumigate Hell. “I cannot see the doctor without wearing my pearls.”

I coughed while Mama, dressed in her best black slacks and creamy silk blouse, rummaged through the heavy mahogany jewelry chest that had sat on top of the dresser since the day she’d moved in to my Savannah condo after breaking her wrist. Now, clunky 14K chains clanked against age-old clip-on earrings. Family heirlooms mingled with her latest QVC purchases. Everything surfaced, but pearls.

“Mama, we need to --.” Her stalling was getting under my skin. “We’ll never make the appointment for your physical if we don’t leave now.”

She ignored me.

I fumed.

Mama stopped and looked around the bedroom, avoiding eye contact with me. She paid no attention to my obvious frustration even though she knew that Savannah lunch hour traffic could be atrocious even without rain. We’d made the trek from Southside Savannah to the doctor’s midtown office at least every three months. She knew what delays could be ahead of us. And I needed to get back to work.

But still Mama ignored me and shifted to the top dresser drawer. Fast moving, blue-veined hands with long fingers and short, manicured nails tossed the contents with the competence of a high energy tumble dry. Cross Your Heart bras, high-waisted panties, and Playtex girdles danced in the air. To Mama’s chagrin, and mine, there were no pearls in sight.

“Sometimes I hide my valuables,” she confided. “The problem now is that I seem to hide them from myself.”

She dove into the sock drawer. Black trouser socks, white ankle socks, and a knee high or two sailed skyward.

“Mom, we have to go now,” I cried, “or else we’ll be late. Then we’ll have to wait all day.”

“But I have to have my pearls,” she argued.

“Why?” I asked. “You are only going to take your clothes off.”

“Exactly,” she said and placed fisted hands on her hips. “Your Daddy always said I looked best in pearls. And when naked, I need all the help I can get.”