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Ruth Bass: Little things do mean a lot; we teeter without trivia

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RICHMOND — When Elissa was 13 and her father was away for the weekend, we decided it was the right time for her ears to be pierced.

We went to Bruce Connor's pharmacy on West Housatonic Street, and without an apparent tremor, she seated herself in the chair. Bruce punched one ear and then the other, and she showed no sign that her ears had just been pierced.

Although tired of cheap earrings and a collection of singles, but with a low threshold for pain, I had backed away for years from the piercing process. Obviously, Elissa was unmoved by it. I took her place in the chair, heard a click and felt excruciating pain. Before I could protest, another click, more pain. I paid, and with our new gold studs in our ears, we headed for the car.

"How come yours didn't hurt?" I asked.

She grinned at me. "Did," she said. "But I thought if I held perfectly still and didn't react, you might get yours done." Another battle surrendered to teen ingenuity, without even suspecting a gauntlet had been thrown down.

That's a memory brought to the fore last week when Facebook, ever the source of odd things, caused a pile of people to admit they hadn't worn earrings for weeks, part of a lethargic reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. What? No earrings? I think the only time I haven't worn them in the past 40 years was after my shoulder was replaced last year, and I literally couldn't lift my arm up to put the left one in.

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It may seem like trivia in this time of worry about family and, indeed, the future of the world. But trivia links the important things in our lives. Trivia is doing dishes, reading the paper, making a grocery list, brushing teeth, check the toilet paper supply.

In between, we can have global worries, wonder if we're going to survive. Through it all, the earrings are on — while we're 6 feet apart. Trivia offers balance. It's reassuring because every element is familiar as the little stuff slides through our days.

So, back to earrings. Every morning they take a few minutes of my time while I decide on which pair. Many are attached to a memory, like the shiny orange and purple and green fish that my sister Janet thought I should have. Quite gaudy. Turns out they go with nothing and everything.

The pewter Eeyores go with days when you cannot find your tail (or your head), the quartz hearts came from a craftsman in Connecticut on a Valentine's weekend, the silver sand dollars speak of summertime in Dennis. Last week, absurdly, I put on dangling rectangles in pale green because they matched my jeans.

So many of these are trinkets, safe to wear, but inexpensive. But others are treasures purchased by my husband over the years, like the Greek key design in gold, purchased on the Greek isle of Kos and the Native American pieces purchased on the sidewalk in Santa Fe or at a remote trading post in Arizona.

Or the diamond pair he splurged on for a special birthday. My unsolicited advice to the several people on Facebook who said they're not bothering with earrings anymore was that they needed to start wearing them. And make the bed. It's a time to lean on trivia.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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