The Lady With The Pearl Necklace

We flew back from Guatemala yesterday- me, Babygirl, Babyboy, and Nana. Two flights, via Atlanta. Babygirl threw a tantrum right at the beginning of our first flight. I panicked internally, worrying that this would be another three-hour megafit. But the flight attendant OK’d her watching the iPad during takeoff, and disaster was averted. Yes, we got many an evil eye from the rest of first class. But when she fell into a Pink Panther- induced stupor, I almost cried with relief.

We don’t usually travel first class. As a matter of fact, I’ve never traveled first class. But when we were buying tickets, there weren’t four seats together in coach on the flights we needed, and there was a good deal on upgrading to Priority. Plus, Nana insisted, explaining that we’d need the extra room and service. So we sprang for it.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Seriously, for traveling with little kids, first class is awesome. We booked the front row on all flights, so the kids couldn’t kick and push the back of anyone’s seat. The extra room was key, and the extra attention as well.

Of course, I was acutely aware of the expectations of the other people in Priority. Or at least, I was paranoid about it. Priority-type people do not expect small, loud, messy children to be traveling near them. Priority-type people would prefer that small, loud, messy children travel in the hold with the dogs. So when Babygirl had her fit, and I was desperately shushing her and counting and threatening and begging, I was not surprised when several people made very loud sighing noises, and others leaned way out into the aisle to see what the heck was going on. This is what I was expecting, and so I did not meet the eye of anyone else in our section on any of the flights either way…

Until the very end of our last flight.

We were just coming into Boston. It was just after dark, and Babyboy was watching the lights of the city. He was excited, but at the same time, he was sort of holding his left ear, pulling it and whining. “Owie, owie.”

As we descended, the pain escalated. “Owie! My ear hurts mommy! Owie, owie! It hurts!”


If anyone had napped through the captain’s announcement to prepare for landing, they were awake now.

I made him sip his ginger ale, water, open his jaws wide, tilt his head from side to side… Bless him, he tried so hard, doing everything I suggested, hopeful that it would help.

But it didn’t, and tears were just rolling down. He cried: “It still hurts mommy, owie, owie! IT STILL HURTS!”

I gave him chewing gum, Nana offered him cough drops. I rubbed his ear, sang to him, massaged his back. “Ow, Ow, Ow! Mommy why does my ear hurt so much?”

Then, a woman appeared next to me. She leaned down and smiled, said “That happens to me, sometimes, too. It can really hurt.”

He was startled, and though he was still holding his ear and crying, he was quieter, listening to the lady. She started talking to Babyboy, asking him simple questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? How was your trip?”

He stammered out answers, and this worked for a minute or so, pure distraction. I was thankful.

But he must have had a sudden jolt of pain, because he sat straight up and stuck his finger in his ear, howling, crying out “Ow Ow Ow, OOOOWWWWWIE!”

The lady watched, concerned. I felt bad. “Thank you for trying,” I said, thinking she would give up.

She stood, but instead of walking away, she reached up to the strand of pearls she was wearing. “Listen, my kids are grown up now, but when this happened to them, I would give them some piece of jewelry to play with. Something sparkly. It usually worked to distract them. Let me try,” and she undid the clasp and leaned forward again, this time dangling her pearl necklace for Babyboy. “Hey, do you know what these are?  These are pearls. Have you ever touched a pearl before?”

Babyboy was again startled. He looked up at her, unsure.

She smiled warmly and reassured him: “Here, take them, can you count them? How many are there?”

Babyboy reached up and touched the pearls. She cupped his hand and placed the necklace right in his palm.

“I’ll be right back, meantime, you count those pearls, okay?” As she stood to go to the lavatory, she added, jokingly: “Um, I will need those back before we deplane!”

Babyboy felt the necklace, inspected it, and counted, slowly, up to ten.

“I’m too tired to count any more,” he sighed. He handed the necklace to me and nestled with his lovey (a small stuffed cat named Gus). He curled up and laid his head on the armrest, with Gus as a pillow, pressing firmly on his ear. And then, he was asleep.

Meantime, I took a good look at the pearl necklace.

The necklace was quite heavy, much heavier than it looked. The pearls warmed in my hands.

Now, I know that nowadays, they make pretty realistic fake pearls. These were not fake pearls. They nearly glowed in the dim overhead lighting. They had that warm lustre that only real pearls have. The necklace was of graduated size pearls, with larger ones in the center, fading off to smaller ones on either side. The larger ones were very large, probably twelve, maybe fifteen millimeters. The holes were perfectly smooth and there were no burrs or chips. The string was knotted silk that was a bit yellowed. The clasp was ornate gold, antique-appearing.

I have no doubt that I was holding an antique or estate necklace, made with unusually large and high-quality Tahitian pearls.

When she returned, I thanked her and handed her back the necklace. “It worked,” I said. “Look, he’s asleep.”

She smiled and nodded.

I spent the last few minutes of the trip wondering what kind of a person hands a random screaming five-year old a piece of jewelry worth maybe ten thousand dollars, as a distraction from pain.


When we landed and the lights came up, I stood and again thanked her. Babyboy was still asleep, and I knew we would need to be the last people off the place. So, until the door opened, the lady and I chatted. She was trim and fit, with a soft cream-colored wool or cashmere overcoat, and tall calfskin boots. She was blonde, and wore little or no makeup. Her face was natural, no sign of any Botox. She easily lifted down her carryon suitcase, which I noted was Louis Vuitton, with a matching purse-tote. It was then that the light caught on her ring, a diamond ring. It was a brief glimpse- one doesn’t want to appear to be staring, you know! But it was enough to see a large, really large, 4 or even 5 carat emerald-cut diamond in an ornate, vintage-y setting. It was the kind of ring that would make almost anyone do a double-take. I took all this as further proof that the pearls were real.

The doors opened and she said goodbye.

So, what kind of a person hands a random screaming five-year old a piece of jewelry worth maybe ten thousand dollars, as a distraction from pain?

I decided it must be a very classy person.

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