Expensive jewelry has not been a big thing in my family. Our few sentimental pieces lack significant financial value. When my paternal grandmother (Who Who) died, as her youngest granddaughter and namesake, I inherited her jewelry box as determined by my older female cousins. Then at 21, living life simply and more interested in mountains than parties, I readily accepted the box – savoring the smell captured inside that would forever remind me of my dear grandmother. When I open the box today decades later, amongst trinkets and mostly costume jewelry, its smell is most meaningful. Back then I also inherited a wedding band dated 1905 and inscribed with the initials belonging to my great grandmother and namesake of my middle name Delia. Seven years later I would create my own wedding ring by enlisting a Seattle jeweler to add several small diamonds from a watch from my Mom’s mother, my grandmother Esther, to the band and presto. I think it cost me $125, no wedding day surprise (or traditional proposal) from my soon to be spouse. I suspect my grandmother Who Who might well have done the same thing, she who gifted me an opal ring following my high school graduation. (She also bought me a pair of Danner hiking boots.)
In a previous blog (You come back again and again) I wrote about the ring I received in the hospital after Dad died and before his body was transported. I slipped it on my finger and at first its look clashed with my minimalist style. Within an hour it felt part of me. The next week as we shared Dad’s ashes back to earth on our Long Beach Peninsula beach property, the ring slipped off my finger and I worried it to be lost, hidden in the dune grass. Dad chuckled somewhere, “Oh my Gumdrop.” I found it soon after and moved it to my middle finger where it still sits, six years later. That ring was the one our dad, perhaps impulsively, purchased at Portland’s Zell Brother’s, for his remarriage with our Mom, a contrast to his original 1950s gold band.
After mom died three weeks ago I pulled out her two jewelry boxes. I knew her keepsakes had limited financial value, albeit rich with memory. Among pins and momentos from times and achievements of her past, a pearl necklace, and mostly inexpensive purchases that had never been lost, there were two rings. I felt I knew my mom better than anyone, we’d talked about everything through the years, hadn’t we? And yet, I didn’t know the exact history of either ring. The first I assumed was her first wedding ring from dad. And yet, I don’t know the details around its purchase nor do I know for sure what ring she used the second time around? Did she too make an impulsive purchase somewhere – something non-traditional and more fitting of her recent “soul uncovering midlife”? She hadn’t worn a ring in years, I believe because of arthritic fingers. Might her wedding ring someday be enjoyed by a granddaughter, I now wonder.
I didn’t notice at first the second ring, a simple band, when I first viewed the box’s contents. Earlier this week I placed it on my right hand ring finger. It fit perfectly. It felt right. Still, I wondered – why was it in here? Where did it come from? Last night I took it off my finger, only then noticing its inscription: April 28, 1926 and the initials DH. I couldn’t believe it! I double checked to find that yes, that was the wedding date for Who Who and Daddy Dick, and my grandmother’s initials, Dorothy Haradon. How could that be? When she died my parents were divorced – why might it go to Mom? Did Dad keep it for safekeeping? Did Who Who give it to her earlier? Oh my. Even when you think you know all the details, the universe sends mysterious clues without answers. Perhaps all that matters are the circles of love surrounding my fingers and my heart from the past. Circles that may continue even after I too move on.
I hadn’t honestly thought a lot about the wearing of rings before, other than those I have worn during my life. Many believe that rings aren’t simply fashion statements, but also a message about our personal commitments, achievements and beliefs. But of course. Once, and perhaps for some people and cultures even today, rings might signal wealth and power. Others use rings on certain fingers to work a certain type of energy. For example, the thumb signifies character. In Asia once the thumb ring was worn on the left hand to protect the hand after releasing an arrow: later the thumb ring was associated with bravery and high societal status. I should consider moving any of my rings to my pinky finger on my non-dominant (left) hand: believed to signify someone fostering strong intuition and listening skills. Is it true that what many of us in western culture call the wedding ring finger is the only finger that has an unbroken artery leading straight to the heart? Signifying our eternal bond. And while I don’t wear my mother’s ring, the finger I naturally put this newly found ring of my grandmother’s, my right hand ring finger, happens to be where the mother’s ring would traditionally be worn. I’m no traditionalist so I say wear your rings where they feel best. Where they belong.
According to some, the ancient Egyptian “Shen” – a circular loop of rope – symbolized the eternal as it had no beginning or end. In the days of our great greats leading into modern times, rings continue to be exchanged as symbols of undying love in wedding ceremonies. Many of us grew up with the song “Make New Friends,” which includes the lines:
A ring signifies love that is endless. Love from a lover, friend and continuing in an unbroken circle forever. The circles I wear, while purchased originally to demonstrate love between my parents, between my grandparents, between my great grandparents. A love that spins forever, pulling me into its orbit, carrying bits of Mom and Dad and Who Who and Daddy Dick and Muna and Papa. And perhaps someday, to those following me. That’s a whole lot of love. No wonder my fingers feel as though they shimmer. When I pay attention.