11 Aug 2021
My Kinmen grandmother loved jasmines, wore black jacquard brocade satin pants on special occasions, and appreciated beautiful things.
She would buy me little trinkets of real gold but told me not to wear pearls because they were made by making oysters cry.
In my adult years, I would always stop by Mikimoto’s pearls whenever I was in Centrepoint but did not buy any. Even without the tears, I found introducing a foreign matter into an oyster on purpose to cultivate a pearl somewhat disrespectful.
Still, I’ve always loved pearls for their milky shimmer, and their association with the Moon. That was how pearl costume jewellery came into my life.
Over the years, these fake pearls of mine have regularly stopped strangers in their track to smile at me and comment how shiny and bright they look.
Some of my pearls are nearly 20 years old, and peeling. Despite their humble origin, I keep them properly as if they belong to the Queen.
When told that the object of their admiration was not the real deal, the pearl admirers’ enthusiasm did not fade.
Perhaps the faces of men & women light up at the the strands around my neck because they can tell that even though my pearls are fake, the love is real.
And I’m reminded of the conversation between the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse in Margery Williams’ book for children:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”