Every year for my birthday, my husband and I buy a piece of jewelry for me. Gold, Indian gold, that glitters brightly in every light. I am a mother to three girls and I am collecting. I am gathering to me pieces of gold and gem to pass on to them. “This was when I was thirty six. We bought it in Pondicherry. This we got the year your youngest sister was born. It was a special year. This for you and this is for you and this for you.” I imagine myself telling this to my girls when they are young women and ready to start their lives on their own or with someone they love. Indian families give gold to their daughters and daughters in law. It is a tradition of passing on something of value that can be used in time of need, for girls who were traditionally married off into families, where they had very little voice of their own.
When my first marriage had failed, I had given it all back to the man I had married. I had a bright colored pouch, a mini handbag full of gold. Earrings, necklaces, rings, lockets wrapped around each other in love. The man I had married asked me, “Where is the gold?” “Here.” I had said and given it to him before walking out of his home and life. It was such a relief.
This year, I turned forty. “It will feel different.” friends told me. It did. I had a massive nose bleed. Blood tricked down one nostril like a slow stream while tissues piled up next to me in a mountain. I joked later that turning forty was bloody. We have picked out pieces of jewelry that we will get to mark the fortieth. And here is what I will tell my girls when they inherit it, “These are from the year that marked the end of a decade. A decade blessed by your arrival. You made me a mother and that is the best thing that happened in my thirties. Now wear these and walk forth boldly into your lives. May no man ever tell you to hand him the gold before you walk out of a relationship if it has failure written all over it. May you wear these and remember your mother. Remember her skin, her hair, her smiling eyes. Remember her enthusiasm for freedom and writing and all things lovely.This is what she was like when she turned forty”