(polka dot jumpsuit)
I scoop my hands around the gold chain of the necklace,
fingering my way from the pear-colored gem to the too-small clasp at the other end.
It’s something meant for this restaurant: exquisite, yet not boastful,
like the country road hidden behind the summer leaves
and the way I twirl linguine against the spoon like the Italians do
but it’s obvious I’m significantly less Italian than my grandfather,
who sits diagonal to my left in his typical short-sleeved button-down, lifting up
the velvet jewelry bag that’s been off-limits until this day.

I am turning sixteen, I am. Sixteen. At the time it’s my least favorite number
but I don’t say that. I push on the gold-plated clasp with my nail, set the jewel
to radiate against my collarbone. Somehow when I left the house for my birthday dinner
I forgot that a decade and a half ago my grandparents picked out a necklace
with a charm it wasn’t supposed to have, took it home in a red velvet pouch
and gave it to my mother to keep unharmed, to wear in trust for me
until I turned sixteen. For my whole childhood, that felt like something I would never be –
an age incomprehensible, like a grown-up, yet I was just a child
and wasn’t that all I would ever be?

I dance with my grandfather in the smooth, shining, velvet-enrobed embrace
of the jazz music playing in the background, like it’s an old movie
where we both wear black and white and see in black and white
and stand calmly, hearing the sepia tones of the saxophone.
It is the last of the simple times. I look down at the peridot suspended on my june-tan skin,
its green the only color I can see now.

I blow out the candle on a cannoli and forget what I wish for.

(little black dress, white cardigan)
In the car I strum my fingertips across my birthstone charm,
whisking the gem into place, facing forward, setting it on top
of the cotton fabric of my dress. It’s only May but it already feels like summer,
like standing in the noontime heat while one stranger tells me
what it means to be an adult before another takes their place,
face indistinct from the last, and reminds me what it means to be a child.

Six hours later, still the one riding on the bump in the middle of the backseat like always, I’ve traded the white dress I wore earlier for a black one, classier,
and in it I feel older: like the girl who just left high school for the last time,
like the girl who’s been two years wearing the necklace
I knew about as a toddler but never comprehended
I would ever wear.

Back at the same restaurant where I held its gold chain for the first time,
I order the same meal I ate the last time I was truly a child,
the last time before my world of black and white found technicolor
and was dyed in the green sheen of this gem. This pasta tastes different –
not worse or better, but like some little ingredient in the recipe has changed,
or maybe I have. We make a toast to me growing up and my mom
hugs me, says how proud she is of the young lady i’ve grown
to become. My grandfather sings along to a song he knows,
something from his time but not mine, like everything they play here,
something from an era of black and white.

On our way out I realize what I used to think was a fish tank
is actually a color television screen, glowing blue with a loop of cinematic footage,
and unlike I would have felt the last time I was here, instead of disappointment
I feel something like relief.

I stare into the same mirror where I first saw the necklace on myself;
I’m wearing makeup this time, and high heels that don’t seem to bother me.
Walking out in them, I feel a sense that there is another girl in here,
another person with my name and my face, wearing black and white
with a green and gold necklace, staring back through the mirror,
watching me leave. I toast to her in my mind with a little touch to the pendant.

it’s a toast to the things she doesn’t know, and to the things I don’t know.
To the things this necklace knew since the day my grandparents placed it
in a velvet bag, already in their minds long since dedicated
to the life of someone not yet born.