My grandmother was a beauty queen, y’all.

This picture is from 1932, when she was Nellie Rose Norris, May Queen at Meredith College.  The day she was crowned May Queen her boyfriend, a pilot, flew over campus and dropped roses from his airplane.  Apparently she inspired that sort of behavior, and by all accounts, she was even more beautiful on the inside than she was on the outside.

She might have been a teeny bit mischievous; I know she once got put on the Prayer List on campus.  That’s what they did to you if you got caught walking around downtown Raleigh without a hat and gloves.

She died when I was little. I remember that she always talked softly, and kissed me on the top of my head, and loved butter mints, and made me my first grown-up birthday cake, with two layers and a very elegant statue of a lady on top walking her dogs across my cake.  I think there were sparkles.

My mother and her brother have been getting the old family homeplace ready to sell.  It’s been empty for years, so it’ll be nice to have someone else move in and turn all the lights back on.  Today my cousin brought me all my grandmother’s costume jewelry.  Turned out to be great; she wasn’t interested in the jewelry, and I wasn’t interested in the china, so we both won that deal.  The highlight of the weekend was spreading it all out and trying to guess where she wore it, and in which decade.

I suspect this is the oldest piece.  It looks so deco, so glam, with all of the filigree. Could be twenties, with the flapper fringe.  More likely it’s forties, and the fringe was a retro touch.  I can’t wait to see this once it’s cleaned and shiny again.

There were some gorgeous earrings; I’ll start rotating them into my wardrobe as soon as I have them converted.  Those clips are instruments of torture.   We are not expected to suffer like that for beauty, here in 2012.  (They could, of course, have pierced their ears.  Only prostitutes did that back then though.  It would have been scandalous.)

Check out this rhinestone bracelet.  It was the first thing I put on.  I may never take it off.

These might be my favorite though.

The look like something you would call “ear-bobs” and wear to a charity luncheon with a graceful updo.  Oh, I wish she’d been around long enough to teach me how to do her graceful updo, and a million other things.  I wish I’d gotten to ask her about being a teacher during the Depression, and meeting my grandfather on the old Wake Forest campus when she was taking a summer class, and how she got over losing a son, and how her butter pie is actually supposed to turn out, and whether she and her brothers were really drinking contraband hooch out of a trunk at my mother’s Southern Baptist wedding in the sixties.

I wish I knew more, but what I do know, I love.  If you see me this week, I’ll likely be wearing all of this jewelry at the same time, just because, and I’ll be thankful for such a heritage.  While baking one of her pies.

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