The bank clerk she could not find the safety box sign in card that would allow me to sign in to Safety Box 617. She searched several times through the hundreds of cards, and still could not find my signature card.
“I know it is there,” I said. “ I have accessed the box just last month.”
“I don’t know what has happened, but I can’t find it”, she said.
I was certain that the card was there, and with some hesitancy, I requested that another bank person search the file. The clerk agreed.
Within minutes the bank manager arrived, and began another search. On his first attempt, he found the card. It was in the G file, but stuck to another card. I signed the card, and the officer allowed me entrance to the vault. He removed, Box 617, and brought me into the private viewing room, and he left the room.
The box was full of jewelry – some real, and other costume jewelry. The box was Suzanne’s history. The box was Suzanne’s stuff. I intended to collect the jewelry and send the pieces to my daughter Tania.
I had previously packed some pieces in small storage bags, and others of more value I wrapped in tissue paper. Earrings, pins, broaches, and rings were all packaged separately. As I unwrapped the real jewelry, I found a multiple stranded pearl necklace, with a gold clasp. I knew that piece. Suzanne had worn that necklace so many times. She wore the necklace when she was wearing a dress or gown that was quite revealing. The pearls rested on her chest, and she looked so lovely. Among the jewelry was another very long string of pearls, but not as ornate as the multiple stranded set of pearls with the gold clasp.
As I looked at the necklaces, and the bags of jewelry, I became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears in my eyes. My hands trembled. I touched the pieces, and brought the necklaces close to my face, and to my nose. Could I smell Suzanne? I thought I remembered her smell. I did remember her smell, and I could only think of Suzanne. Her skin, smell, smile – mostly her smile. I took some of the tissue to wipe my eyes. Box 617 held Suzanne – her person, and not my memories of her – but her. Many thoughts of our life together. Each one just fleetingly, and not complete, but each one joyful – so joyful. I was missing her, but the jewelry kept her in the room.
I had brought a cloth sack to use to take the jewelry back home with me. I placed the jewelry in the sack, and checked the box to be certain that nothing was left in the box. Prior to leaving the private room, I contacted the bank clerk to complete the visit. Upon leaving the vaulted room, the clerk would check the box for any content, and search the room in case something was left on the table, or floor. Everything check out, and I left the vault and signed out on the identity card.
When I arrived back at my apartment, I took all the jewelry out of the sack. As I searched thru the contents, I did not see the multiple stranded pearl necklace with the gold catch. I searched again, and several more times. Where was the necklace? I was becoming quite anxious, and I could not understand what had happened. I know I placed the necklace in the sack. I know the clerk and I searched Box 617, and the private room. We both were satisfied that nothing was left in the room. Where was the necklace? I actually panicked. I went to my car, and searched the car. Perhaps the necklace had fallen out of the sack. The car was clean. I know I saw the necklace – I held the necklace – I smelled the necklace.
I called the bank, and requested that the clerk who had checked me out to search the room again. Perhaps someone had been in the room after I left. The clerk told me that I was the last person to use the room, and that she would check the room. I should stay on the phone. Within minutes the clerk informed me that there was nothing in the room. I must say that I did think that perhaps the clerk or someone in the bank found the necklace, and had stolen it. The necklace was there – it was clearly there – in my hands.
My despair was all consuming. I left my apartment, and went back to the bank. At the bank, I spoke to the clerk who did the search. She suggested that we both check the room. We did. It was empty. I apologized for the need to search. I stood in the bank for several moments. I could not leave. Perhaps just one hour ago, I had the necklace in my hand in this bank. I know I held the necklace in the private room. How could I have lost the necklace? How could I have misplaced the necklace from the bank to my apartment? Nothing made any sense.
Standing in the lobby of the bank, I saw in one office the bank manager was seated at his desk. I needed to speak with someone about my plight. I needed to speak with someone about my loss, although I could not accept that I might have lost the necklace. I knocked on his door, and he asked me in. He immediately recognized that we had met at the vault. He asked me of my concern. I told him of the entire sequence of events, from the moment I entered the bank to search Box 617, and the lost necklace. In telling him, I did lose some control, and started to cry. He was silent at first, but then he asked me to tell about the necklace, and about Suzanne.
And I did. I told him about our chance meeting in 1963 in Toronto, Canada. I talked about France, family, the farm, animals, gardens, and Suzanne, and Suzanne. He listened and hardly spoke. I rambled on, but always where was that necklace. I told him of how that Box 617 awakened a lifetime of memories, and feelings. As I searched thru Box 617, I was once again with Suzanne. It was so strange, emotionally consuming, and yet so meaningful. I think that the jewelry and its placement on her body, her hands, and her ears all generated her presence.
At one point, the gentlemen, whose name I have forgotten, said that perhaps – just perhaps the necklace was not there. He suggested that perhaps I thought it was there, and it had to be there among her jewels, but in fact it was not. He said that my need for it to be there, and my memory of the necklace was all there was, and not the actual piece of jewelry. As he spoke, I was not upset, nor doubting his notion. In fact, I could believe that I was so emotionally involved in those moments in the private room, that I could have imagined the presence of the necklace. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I never did have the necklace in my hands. Perhaps I did not smell her skin. I had been with him for at least thirty minutes, and I thanked him for his time and concern.
I told him that what I felt in that room, and my search in Box 617, was a moment shared by many persons who search through other safety boxes. Other persons who are also reminded of their loved ones. Other persons who relive their soulful moments with departed loved ones. He suggested that was likely the case, and that I was fortunate to have had such joyful memories. I thanked him for the time and left the bank.
Upon my return to my apartment, I immediately telephoned my daughter and asked her if she remembered the necklace. She said that she did, and she asked what had happened. I told her of the mornings search, and the loss. I asked her if I had ever given her the necklace, or did Suzanne give it to her. She remembered that during her college years, a pearl necklace was given to her, and that she could not find it. Tania believed that perhaps a roommate had stolen it, but nothing was ever done with that possibility. She did not believe it was that necklace, but another set of pearl strands. There was nothing more to say about that possibility.
I am writing this piece because Box 617 has become such a striking moment in my life and how the things of our past can prompt feelings that are never forgotten. Perhaps I did not see, nor hold the strands of pearls with the gold clasp. What I did see, and hold was Suzanne – her smile, her smell and a life of such excitement and love.
Tom Golden, March, 2015.