When I was a little girl, I always loved visiting my Mamaw. Mamaw’s home was filled with treasures, from the lighted display case filled with my Papaw’s pipe collection, to the white and chrome formica table with the red vinyl chairs, to the plates decorated in soft pink and green dogwoods. I could explore her house for hours and always find something fascinating to play with.
My favorite item was Mamaw’s jewelry box, filled with all kinds of exotic treasures. I would take the aqua colored box off the dresser and climb onto Mamaw’s brass bed. Sitting on the appliqued tulip quilt, I would reverently take each item out, trying it on, imagining just what occasion Mamaw might have worn this piece for, or where she had found a necklace like that.
One piece which really intrigued me was a necklace made of garnet red beads, with a pendant made of a ceramic heart and some kind of animal foot. I would play with that piece for hours.
One day after she had finished the dishes, Mamaw found me playing with this necklace. She got a small smile on her face, and she said “You like that necklace, don’t you?”
I nodded, cupping the necklace in my hand. “It’s different. Is this a lizard foot?”
She laughed and sat on the bed. “No, it’s much more interesting than that.” And then she proceeded to tell me the story.
“A long time ago, there was a little girl, quite like you. She had big brown eyes and curly brown hair that her mother would pull back and braid every morning before she could go out to play. Her favorite thing to do was to go down by the creek and play with the salamanders that lived along the muddy banks, and she could spend hours there, listening to the rushing water and feeling the warm sun on her face.
One day, a dragon was flying over the woods, and he saw the little girl playing by the creek. That morning her mother had put a jeweled butterfly in her hair, and the greedy dragon was enchanted by the sparkling colors of its wings. Without a second thought, he swooped down and picked up the girl, carrying her away to his cave.
The girl was afraid, of course, but she also knew how to take care of herself, having helped her mother around the house . So she looked around the dragon’s cave, marveling at all the treasures there. In amongst the piles of jewels, she saw a gold hilted knife. She slipped around the cave, and picked up the knife, slipping it into the pocket of her overalls.
“My, what a lot of jewels you have, Mr. Dragon,” she said, looking into his glowing yellow eyes.
His voice came back, deep and rumbly “But none so sweet as that butterfly in your hair. Give it to me.”
“I can’t do that, Mr. Dragon. It was a gift from my grandmother, you see.”
“Then I will have to take it from you.” And the dragon lunged at her.
She moved, quick as a wink and found the dragon’s soft underbelly, and with one thrust of the knife the dragon was dead. His body shriveled up until it was no larger than a small alligator.
She took the knife and cut off a foot to prove to her mother that she had seen a dragon, and she filled the pockets of her overalls with all the jewels she could carry. Then she walked home, for the dragon’s cave was not that far from the cottage where she lived.
After her mother had hugged her and fed her, she took out the treasures from the cave. She strung them into the necklace you see here. That piece has been passed down from mother to daughter over the years until my mother gave it to me.