by cindy

Long before the development of shopping malls, and long before the ubiquitous ear piercing locations within those malls, there were families with members, usually grandmothers or spinster aunts, with steady, clean (one hopes) hands and good enough eyesight to perform the singular task of piercing ears. Anyone’s ears.

But not in my family…

…in spite of my father being a surgeon and my mother being a nurse.

In fact, when I decided that pierced ears were something I really, really wanted, neither of my parents were in favor of it. No amount of begging, whining, wheedling, sucking up, or complaining seemed to sway their view. To this day, I don’t know why they finally relented, but relent they did—as long as I abided by certain caveats.

First, I was absolutely forbidden to have “some old grandmother on a random street corner, using ice cubes, a rusty needle, and an old piece of string” pierce my ears. Yes. They said that.

Next, I had to save my hard-earned baby-sitting money to purchase my own earrings.

Finally, I had to make an appointment, all by myself, with a doctor for sterile piercing and pay his fee as well.

I agreed to their terms.

I believe that they had felt any one of those caveats would have tripped me up—could I really save enough money? (I discovered I didn’t need my usual supply of teen magazines.) Could I really stand to do that much babysitting? (I mean, remember my main source of clientele: the triplets…) Could I really muster the moxie to call the doctor myself, especially given how much I generally hated using a telephone? (I swear, no one has been happier than I with the invention of email.)

And I did it. I did it all. Each and every caveat, completed.

I was also sixteen at the time so it shouldn’t have been much of an achievement, really.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the day of piercing finally arrived and I was ready: Earrings purchased. Appointment made. Money tucked into my wallet.

In the office, the receptionist-also-nurse called my name. I waited in eager anticipation in the examining room, imagining a super-sterile surgical technique which would painlessly pierce my ears in record time.

The doctor arrived, his nurse-also-receptionist following closely behind.

In one of her hands was a small bowl containing

Ice Cubes.

In the other was a small, cloth-covered tray which held

One Sewing Needle

And One Length of Ordinary String.

All of which, I assumed, were sterile, though I did not ask. I started to giggle imagining the reaction of the parents once I shared this story.

No alcohol. No fancy piercing gun. Ice cubes, needle, and string, just like someone’s random grandmother.

And the fee? None. Zero. I was given “professional courtesy” since my dad was not only a physician but a friend as well. The look on my parents’ faces when I arrived home, strings in my ears and money in my pocket, was worth all the haranguing that had gone on before. My mother grinned. My father glowered. Predictable each.

So, what about the earrings, you ask?

The sweet little enameled goldfish earrings (Hey! They were all I could afford, okay?) remain sentimentally my favorite, though I have not worn them in decades.

I was waiting for someone who might love them for me.

Then, when The Bug got her ears pierced—quite safely in some piercing place inside some mall— I realized it was time to part with those very first earrings.

So I did.

I think she wears them wonderfully well.