My fingers found their way to the earrings in my earlobes and began the subconscious ritual of twisting them around and around while we waited.

I’ve been twisting my earrings in moments of stress since I was in the 3rd grade, standing next to mean old Mrs. Boyd’s desk reciting my multiplication tables. I would sway back and forth, sweating in my sneakers, twisting away on those earring studs while I stammered out three times one is three, three times two is six, three times three is three …

And so there I was three months ago, sweating in a hospital bed in the OR prep room, having found out only hours earlier that our twin baby boys were to be born that day, and naturally, I resorted to that familiar comfort of twisting my earrings.

I was just a few twists of the diamond studs in when I felt a small burst of panic. Ugh, I groaned. I was supposed to leave these at home. I can’t go into surgery with them in my ears.

It’s no surprise at all that I forgot to take them out. With very few exceptions, those diamond studs are in my earlobes around the clock. I’m not a fancy jewelry person. In fact, those earrings and my wedding ring are the only pieces of jewelry I own that have any worth to them at all. I don’t wear those earrings to be fancy. I wear them because in a very tangible way, they remind me of who I am.

My husband bought me those earrings for Christmas one year when we received an unexpected windfall of cash. He is ever the responsible one, the logical one, but he is also lavish and ridiculous in the ways he shows love to me, and though we were barely hobbling along financially at the time, he chose to take a bonus given to him and present to me a box of sparkly delight.

To this day, my mother wears a pair of diamond stud earrings in her ears, and when I was growing up, that always seemed like the most grown-up thing a woman could wear. And so when I put those earrings in, I had a little moment with myself. We married young and lived as poor college students for so long that even when we moved hours away from home, I still felt like a little girl pretending.

But then, the earrings. The earrings signaled a subtle shift in adulthood for me. They made me feel grown-up, that I was more than some imposter who shouldn’t be allowed to make choices about health insurance and 401ks. I was a real live grown-up woman.

dress yourself in story
Photo by Steve A. Johnson

The things we keep in our jewelry boxes and in the back of our closets and in dusty boxes under our beds, the things that have a Story, these are the tangible evidences of where we have come from and who we are becoming.

Whether our daily style is runway chic or kitchen comfy, we find there are certain things that will never be hauled off to Goodwill, things that we rarely allow little hands to touch, things whose worth can never be measured with mere dollars.

It’s why we wrap ourselves in our father’s old cabled cardigan when the phone call from the doctor is not the answer we had been praying for. It speaks to us of comfort and support in our most vulnerable moments.

It’s why we slip on the simple gold band that was once our grandmother’s wedding ring, the one that saw her through the Depression and the Dust Bowl and the death of our grandfather. We slip it on and find courage and inspiration in her strength as we sit down to tackle the project that will make or break our career.

It’s why we keep the boots that never left our feet that summer we spent backpacking after college. We wear them to drop off our children on the first day of school, knowing that no mountain hike could possibly be as hard as this is.

They are just things, sure. But they are also the illustrations and mile markers and memory stones that we gather up along the way, as our Story plays out year after year. They are more meaningful than mere fashion and they long outlive any trend.

And when we need them most, they are there to steady our trembling hands as they remind us of who we are.

What are the things that you keep because they speak a Story for you?