Chris MacBride, 46, Arlington, freelance writer

The only possession I ever hide to keep safe is barely one inch tall. On a South Carolina cotton farm in 1923, my great-grandparents gave a lavalier to their daughter Ruby for her Sweet 16. Thirty years later on a farm 40 miles east, Ruby gave it to her daughter, my mother.

The first time my husband met Grandma Ruby, she drove him in a golf cart around her farm, the one where my mother turned 16, where I lived briefly during the Vietnam War and where I learned to make cinnamon rolls from canned biscuits. As Grandma Ruby and my husband neared her vegetable garden, he screamed at a black snake hanging from a tree in their path. Ruby laughed, boasting she’d killed it that morning and hung it there to bring the rain.

I turned 16 in a Northern Virginia subdivision. The daughter of an aviator and a Navy wife who’d been ordered cross-country so often that moving stickers plastered the bottom of my mother’s jewelry box, the one holding the forgotten pendant. When she finally discovered Ruby’s lavalier and gave it to me, I had been 16 for 16 years.

When I wear the heirloom, it awakens my Southern DNA. I hear the call of the whippoorwill and the whistle of the freight train. I smell the sandy soil and see the leaning garden shed. I ache for a back rub and a bedtime story. Ruby’s charm takes me home.

(Nathaniel Grann/The Washington Post)

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