Back in the ’60s, (I’m not exactly sure of the year, but my Mom probably remembers), she bought my Dad a treasure chest jewelry box. Why, no one’s quite sure, as my Dad wasn’t very big on jewelry and truth be told, they hadn’t been married long and they didn’t have much between ’em. As I recall, Dad had a watch, his wedding band, a couple of tie tacks and a recently-gotten pair of cufflinks. But, I guess Mom saw an opportunity to get him something cool, so he could keep it all in one place.
That box was pretty common back then. The kind of thing you could get at Gertz. Or Stern’s. Or at A&S or Gimbels. (Getting the picture? This thing outlasted all those department stores and a number of others.) You would see them on display in store windows, with spiffy rings and baubles jewelers and other shopkeepers were hawking.
That box was a fixture on my Dad’s dresser for as long as I could remember. Inside? Well, most of its contents never moved. Oh, sure, his wedding ring and watch went in and out of the same compartments, but otherwise? If he got a watch (as he did from the bank one year), it would find a spot in the bottom compartment. Cufflinks sort of went out of vogue. He had an American flag tie tack I remember him wearing a couple of times, but tie tacks and tie bars? They didn’t stay trendy long beyond the ’80s.
In the bottom compartment, I remember Dad having some mementos. A ticket to see the ’69 Mets. Ticket stubs for the reopening of Yankee Stadium after the big renovation in (if I remember right) the mid-1970s. A stub from the Rangers vs. Russians game from the 1975 matchup at Madison Square Garden against Red Army One. A subway token with the punched out Y. Oh, and of course, extra ChapSticks. He always had extra ChapSticks in there. We used to joke over the years about what we wanted when my parents passed. We’d be sitting around in the lanai after Mom and Dad moved to Florida, having a holiday dinner, talking about “dividing up the inheritance.” Dad would usually mention it after someone questioned what Mom had paid for a particular Christmas decoration, and so it would go. Who’d get the coffee can filled with pennies he and Mom had used for card nights over at my Aunt and Uncle’s? Who’d get the collection of silver dollars
still stored in a glass jar from back in the mid-’60s.Who’d get the Monet?
Me? I wanted the box. That was it. Even now when we joke around, I tell my Mom not to leave anything but bills. I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything. Neither does my sister. Nothing more than her to have fun while she’s still here and not to worry about leaving anything behind.
The box? By the 1980s, you could find them for $5 at flea markets. They’d become kitsch. So many were made, I believe, that despite the cool design that had made it iconic, it wasn’t enough to impress anyone any more. But even back then, I didn’t have much jewelry or wear much. A herringbone chain with a hockey mask charm on it from my Aunt Rae. Dad’s old signet ring. A pocket watch I bought, hell, I can’t even remember where. Didn’t matter, though. Someday? I’d get the box. And then it would grace my dresser, as it had Dad’s. I wasn’t in any rush.
Fast forward to 2012. Dad passed away. Like zombies, we went through getting done what needed to be done. Arrangements. His cremation. His blowout memorial service at Pine Lakes. Relatives in town. Going through his closet. Donations. And so on. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that my Mom started bringing up what me and my sis, and the grandkids, might want. And, she went through a laundry-list of things. None of which any of us really wanted to cover just then. Plus, it wasn’t like we needed to go through his stuff. It was Mom’s, after all. Besides pictures and maybe things of sentimental value???
So, I mentioned the box. Now, remember. I’m blind. Haven’t seen the thing, at the time, in probably 15 years, 10 of which were due to sightlessness. Which was when I found out.
“What? His jewelry box? That thing’s gone. It’s been gone for years.”
Gone? I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t understand it, is more like it. Why? What had happened? Had it finally fallen apart after 50 or so years in service?
Nope. Apparently, no one ever thought I was serious about it.
Sometime either right before my parents moved down to FL, or right after, it got donated. Goodwill or Kiwanis or Salvation Army is my guess. Last Christmas, I asked Pam to go on eBay and find me one. I mean, these things were mass-produced. They were never very expensive. I was sure she could find one someone was getting rid of for a couple of bucks.
Pictured, is what my sister finally located online. And, it’s the box all right, albeit a little bigger model. Right down to the side chains, the little embellishments, and the metal hasp. Same interior lift-out tray, same compartments, pretty much the same everything. Wasn’t $5 bucks, either, but I guess maybe I’m not the only sentimental fool out there trying to track down 50 year old kitsch for reasons beyond nostalgia.
Wish I’d known at the time Dad was going to get rid of the original. He’d have given it to me in a heartbeat if he’d known I was serious about wanting it. As for the contents? Maybe I might see if Mom still has some ticket stubs around. She doesn’t get rid of much. She’s already given me one of his watches, and one of my nephews another.
Me? I’ve already gotten a head start. You can’t go wrong having an extra ChapStick sittin’ around.
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Currently listening to: “Under the Milky Way Tonight” by The Church