The Things I Carry

Written by Becky Cutler
 | Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:57

Becky Cutler is the daughter of the late Clipper publisher David Cutler, who died on Feb. 28, 2010.

For those of you who know me well, you know about my slight obsession with the Red Sox, that I am way too competitive with anything I do, and that I’ve worn the same necklace for a year.

КККК To understand the history behind my bold fashion statement of always wearing the same piece of jewelry, we’re going to have to go back in time, to the years of elementary school and the days of fourth grade. On one particular day, my class had show-and-tell, and I decided to bring in a picture of my family. As I held up the frame displaying my mom, my dad and their six kids, I immediately saw eyes widen and hands shoot up to ask questions. I had seen the same look many times in my life and I could predict the questions that were to follow. They went like this: “Why do your brothers and sisters look so much older than you? Are they even your real siblings? And is that your dad with the full head of white hair?”

Yes, even in just my 10 years of life, I had heard a variation of these questions so frequently that even if no one said anything, I knew these thoughts were floating in their minds. It made me feel like my family was different, and at the time, well, we were. I was a 10-year-old aunt, had four siblings in their 20s and a sister in her late teens and throughout elementary and middle school, whenever it came time to share my family with my class, it seemed that we became the subject of conversation for the rest of the day.

Outside of school, I found myself running into the same types of situations that I never knew how to handle. Growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my dad was run errands around town. As the publisher of Duxbury’s local newspaper, wherever we went, my dad was always guaranteed to run into someone he knew. Like clockwork, they would come over to say hi, glance down at me beside my father and ask the same question, “So David, is this your granddaughter you’ve got here?”

Instantly I would give them that same glare I had perfected over the years, as my dad would laugh and proudly explain that I was his youngest daughter. When I was younger, I never understood how my dad could playfully brush off these judgmental comments, because it was something that had angered me my whole life.

Flash forward to Christmas 2008. My sister and I had each just received a heart-shaped locket from my dad, hers gold and mine silver. As a huge tomboy at the time, it was my first real piece of jewelry and hesitantly I put it on. My dad’s eye lit up as he saw his gift dangling from my neck, and I decided to keep it on for the rest of the night. Even though I didn’t normally wear necklaces, I liked it just because it was a present from him. The next day, I decided to keep it on, and from then, I rarely took it off.

Now jump to the summer of 2009, just a few months before I would enter my freshman year at St. George's School. Though the specific date in July remains unclear, the events that happened I will never forget. I had come back from playing tennis with my dad and as I walked up the stairs to take a shower, I was stopped by my mom’s hand.

“We need to talk about something,” she said. Instantly my heart sped up and a chill ran through my spine; I knew something was wrong. I would later learn that my dad was diagnosed with adnocarsonoma, a rare type of cancer that has the ability to devour its victims in a matter of weeks.

Hearing the news, I clutched my locket, as I did whenever I felt stressed or nervous, and looked at my dad and his tear-stained eyes as they were staring back at me. In a matter of minutes, my necklace had turned from a thoughtful Christmas gift into one of the final presents he would give me. As I entered my freshman year at St. George's, my dad began chemotherapy. As days blurred into the next, I continued to wear my locket as a constant reminder that my dad was with me.

Once again, the Christmas season came upon us and like déjà vu, I saw a small jewelry box under the tree with my name on it. Noticing that my sisters had identical boxes, I walked over to my dad and opened it. I found a heart-shaped charm engraved on the back saying, “To my precious daughter, I love you today, tomorrow, and always.” The room became silent as all eyes were on me and my two sisters, huddled together as we read the engraved words over and over. It turned out that that charm would be the last present my dad gave to me, because a few months later, on Feb. 28, 2010, he passed away.

However, my story doesn’t end there. During the months after my dad’s death, I found myself holding his necklace and reading the engraving dozens of times throughout the day. Even during softball games, I managed to keep him with me as I secretly taped the necklace to my neck underneath my uniform. Soon, freshman year became sophomore year, and before I knew it, I found myself living on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean.

The date was February 28, 2011, the first anniversary of my dad’s death. The Geronimo crew and I spent most of the afternoon crafting a rope swing and plunging into the 70-degree water. As I climbed up the ladder onto the deck, I noticed that my locket, my first piece of real jewelry that my dad had given me, was gone, leaving my heart-shaped charm dangling alone on my neck. After telling my crew what I had lost, they rushed to put on flippers and snorkel gear.

I quietly sat down at the bow, staring off into the ocean, and clutching the remainder of my necklace. As I gazed into oblivion, Reid, Will and Captain Dawson dove into the ocean in search for something I knew they would never find. After an hour of feeling around the seaweed-covered floor, they apologetically explained their empty hands.

Exactly one year later, however, their hands did not remain empty. This time it was the second anniversary of my dad’s death; and instead of losing a locket, I gained one. After classes, I went into my room to see a small light blue bag placed on my bed. I opened it up to find a heart-shaped charm that my Geronimo crew had given me. Gratitude for their gift filled me as I slipped the charm onto my necklace, next to the one my dad had given me. Later that year from my mom I received another piece of my necklace – a charm engraved on the front with “dad” and on the back with numbers displaying my dad’s birth and death dates.

Since then, every day I have continued to wear my necklace. It connects me to my mom, sisters and family, my friends and of course, my dad. It also reminds me of the confidence my dad showed whenever someone slipped a judgmental comment. It is a symbol of my differences and the pride I wear them with. Growing up as the girl who only wore sweatpants and who thought jeans were “too girly,” I never thought that a piece of jewelry would have so much significance in my life. It’s not necessarily the necklace, but the stories behind it that make is so special. It’s a part of my past, it’s a part of my present and it’s a part of my future.

Previously published in the St. George 2013 Winter’s Bulletin.