The Locket
Allen McGill

Gran's locket wasn't even pretty. It was a dull silver circle with a scratched red stone in the center, but she never took it off.

As a little boy, I'd been allowed to fondle it while sitting on her lap, but only if I were careful. On its back was inscribed simply the letter "V," which I thought curious, since Gran's name was Melinda.

It was just a curiosity that grew when Gran died and there was no one to ask. Gramp--Mr. Carroll, as Gran always referred to him--had died when Mom was a little girl and Gran had no siblings.

The secretive, yet prominent, thing about Gran was her locket. There was no question but that it would be buried with her. Before the funeral, Mom opened it to find a very worn picture of a man, unrecognizable, but presumably, Mr. Carroll.

I remember asking Gran where she'd gotten the locket. She'd replied, "A memento from the love of my life...until you came along." Then she squeezed and hugged me, pretending she was going to eat me up. And effectively changing the subject.

It wasn't until Gran was laid to rest that we learned a bit about what she was like as a young woman. Old scrapbooks and photo albums were found secreted in her bedroom closet, along with boxes of letters, souvenirs from places visited and theatrical productions seen so long ago.

One picture showed her as a finishing school student in Calcutta, with a long skirt, a buxom figure, wearing a waistcoat blouse and sporting high-piled hair. But what struck us funny was that she had a cricket bat resting on her shoulder, as did the handsome young Indian man standing beside her. They were smiling brightly at each other, she with hip-thrust sauciness.

In another picture, the two look directly into the camera, wrapped in a plain weave sari. I was just a teenager when Gran died and not at all interested in old pictures, but Mom sort of gasped and leaned closer over the images.

"Look," she said, sounding in awe. "Gran's locket, way back then."

I turned the picture over. On the reverse, it read, "To My Darling, Melinda. With Love Through Many Lifetimes, V."

Looking back now, I realized how quickly Mom had put Gran's belongings away, and why. A young boy just wouldn't understand what Mom felt she had discovered. Such relationships were frowned on in those days.

"These were Gran's personal things," Mom said. "And we're going to respect her privacy."

She stored all the items in the attic, unopened and unread. Gran's privacy would remain intact.

First published: August, 2003