Grandmother’s Gift

A spooky story for your Halloween reading

 

The rounded skeins of hand-dyed cording had been blessed three times — once by a priestess, once by a hermit of the woods, and once by whatever lives in the well at the center of town. 

The beads, however, were unsanctified. Blue as a jay’s feather, lumpy, and speckled with silver. My beads. I’d saved these last few for the youngest of my daughter’s daughters, the only one still living. There were just enough beads for a single necklace. 

I picked two colors of cord — red for her heart, and gold for her life — and cut a matching length of each. 

My once-nimble fingers are as lumpy as the beads, and only slightly more flexible. My ragged nails caught little whisps of the slippery cords, and the snags seemed to shimmer with life as I trembled my way through knots. My braid was uneven — the red cord seemed to have grown an extra length somehow, and the beads were not quite square in the center. But still I was pleased. 

And tired.

And old.

And very started when the door slammed open and my daughter and her daughter laughed their way in. 

“Oh look!” my granddaughter cried, her dark red hair shining in the window light. It was the color mine once had been. “You’ve been busy. Is that a necklace?”

I patted the greedy little hand. “To give you luck.”

My daughter studied me for a minute and sighed. She had to be remembering the necklace of green and pale orange she’d gotten from me shortly before she started her family. Her brown hair was just like her father’s hair, and she wore it tidy and braided into a bun like all widows wear their hair in our village. I’d never braided my long red hair, ignoring how the villagers had glared, just like I’d never worn a widow’s black. 

“Thank you, Grandmother. I’ll treasure it.” The girl put it on even though the colors didn’t match the mint green dress she wore, and the lumpy beads sparkled as they lay nestled between her young breasts.

And off she ran to show friends her new necklace and to flirt with the boys. 

Her mother stood for a moment in the center of my room, looking at the things I had collected in a lifetime of making jewelry and love charms. I’d managed to feed and house myself and my daughter with the money I’d made from selling my trinkets to the village and beyond. 

“You never did tell me the story of those special beads,” she said, as she put away my scissors and thread. “You only had a few of them, just enough for my necklace and now for hers.”

“I made those beads on a cold winters night when I was pregnant with you.” I tried to make my back more comfortable, my body remembering for a moment what it had felt like to be so close to giving birth. Remembering for a moment who I had been, who her father had been. Remembering why.

“It was a night of powerful magic, bitterly cold, and I followed the instructions of an older witchy woman. I could only make a few, though. They took all the power I could harness from the night. The beads are made from my tears. A Mother’s Tear, that’s what they call those beads.”

“I never realized. That’s…quite impressive, Mother. Thank you.” She left in a whirl of unease, looking a little spooked by my story but also puzzled. And, as always, somehow she missed asking the important question. 

The necklace was for luck, yes — but I never said what kind of luck, now did I?