I Don’t Understand a Thing About Family Heirlooms

My mother comes into my room with a cross necklace in a box, says, Your grandmother wore this when she died.

She holds it out for me to touch, and as if I’m unsure that the death is fully removed from that chain, I touch it briefly, ready to wash my hands. The metal is cold like a body.


She rambles on about how my grandfather gave it to me at my baptism (which you probably don’t remember, she says), and how this necklace carries a big part of his history (though she won’t elaborate on what exactly that means).


I ask her why it’s in that box and she says, to set it apart. What is it, some sanctified relic? Does she really think I’ll leave it in there, not mix it up with all the other cross necklaces, that I’ll be able to understand the woman who died before I could have even a memory of her voice?


Just keep the darn necklace, Mom. Wear her sometimes while you’re at it. You could use the glam; that crusting gold pendant’s better than nothing. When you die, let me make sure you’re wearing your mother, and when I die I will wear both of you. Eventually, we’ll all be wearing each other so that we won’t be able to tell the difference between her bones, or your bones, or mine.

Meg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, and Gargoyle. Her poem “Rumiko” won the 2015 Ian MacMillan award for poetry, and she has four poetry chapbooks in print. She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at: www.megedenbooks.com.

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