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A Necklace for You, A Necklace for Me


I’m not one to obsess over the day I have kids. I’m excited about it eventually, yes, but I’ve tried not to latch on to ideals of how I plan to raise them, or what I swear I will or will not do as the perfect parent. Lord knows I’ll probably start messing up my kids the first day we meet, in those subtle ways we never realize. I’m okay with that.

But I have thought a lot about the things I’d like for my kids to associate with me. I don’t mean when I’m dead or anything. Just little things that will make them think of me. For example, the smell of sautéing garlic and parsley brings me straight to my parents’ kitchen. Oil of Olay on a freshly washed face is my mom completely.

I know it’s strange—I’m planning ahead for nostalgia. But the smell of bread baking last winter made the whole thing so clear: I want my future kids to smell fresh bread and think of me. That’s not too much to ask. Warmth, comfort, coziness, and good food, all wrapped up into one person.

Then there are the pasta necklaces, and the sick days. These are at the top of my nostalgia-planning list, a combo that I hope to carry down from my mom. Because I can’t look at a piece of dry tubular pasta, or stay home sick, without thinking of our pasta necklace-making days. I don’t think we even made them more than a couple of times, but the memory is too good not to pass down.

It starts with a kid, stuck home on a couch, missing a fun event because she’s sick. That girl’s mom (or dad) will also be stuck on said couch, missing said fun event. In my case, I was five years old, home for weeks with pneumonia, missing a cousin’s wedding. We thought I’d be okay, but realized at the last minute that I really couldn’t go out. So we changed plans: Dad went with the brothers, and Mom and I stayed home watching the Wonderful World of Disney.

Man, was I bummed. All I could think of was my brothers and dad pigging out at the oyster bar (even then, I had my priorities straight), feeling sorry for myself quarantined at home. Through my moping I could hear my mom shuffling through drawers in her sewing table, then the clatter of what sounded like pebbles being poured into a glass bowl. It was all very curious. I sat up as she approached the couch with her supplies—what turned out to be a bowl of ditalini pasta and thread.

“What are you doing,” I asked. Back then, I could eat a bowl of raw pasta like it was popcorn. It was a special weakness of mine. I doubted that my mom pitied me so much that she’d actually let me do it, though.

“I used to do this when I was little. Look—if you tie the string around one piece of pasta at the end, then use it as a chain for a necklace, you can make jewelry.” She demonstrated the technique as I crunched on a few pieces from the bowl. This was quite the revelation. I’d never seen pasta used for anything other than its intended purpose. Then the light bulb went off. Pneumonia be damned, I had found my calling right there on that vinyl-covered couch.

“Wow, I can wear this everywhere!” I was overwhelmed with joy and possibility. Just thinking of the endless accessories I could make, the potential for pasta combinations, the special orders from Manhattan. (Ditalini and rigatoni on a bracelet? Why, yes, I can make a custom order for you, m’am. Oh, you want little star shapes for those earrings? Let me see if I can get those with a hole in the middle, sir.) My design options were boundless. I’d be the most famous pasta jewelry designer the 1980’s had ever seen. I couldn’t believe how much time I’d already wasted watching My Little Pony when I could have been creating. Too bad Etsy was still decades away.

I’ve spent the last twenty-odd years with that night fondly tucked in my back pocket. We watched whatever Disney movie was on (who could remember?) and made jewelry for my grandmas and for each other. When we were done, we even made them for my dad and brothers. I wore them like candy necklaces every day, stealing a bite when no one was looking, until my collection was entirely consumed and it was back to designing the new season’s styles.

I grew out of the pastime, but I still can’t see pasta as just a meal anymore. It’s fashion, it’s a creative medium, it’s my mom and me owning the night when we could have just watched TV. It’s part of a memory I hope to recreate for someone someday.

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