Today would have been Mom and Dad’s 64th wedding anniversary. The two from Alabama met in New York City on a blind date in March, 1946 — each was told, “I know someone who talks just like you!” — and were married in Alabama at Thanksgiving. Fast work, Dad!
I was thinking of them because… well, I always think of them. I’m sure a day does not go by that I don’t think of my mother and father. (I remember reading a biography of Katharine Hepburn that was puzzled by her close relationship with her parents and the fact that she still quoted them long after their deaths. It didn’t puzzle me at all.)
But I was particularly thinking of them because in church yesterday something pinched my finger and on investigating I saw my mother’s engagement ring had worn through until it was close to breaking in half. Yes, I wear my own wedding ring, plus my mother’s wedding and engagement rings.
I never had an engagement ring of my own. DH and I had no money, I didn’t care about jewelry or diamonds, and it won’t surprise anyone to learn that I preferred to get a puppy instead. So, many years later, Mom told me she would leave me her rings. Those rings, later plus her mother’s engagement ring, had been on her finger all my life. I don’t remember her ever taking them off. Mom had long, narrow fingers and the tiny soft chink! of the rings clinking together is one of my earliest memories.
I don’t have her slender hands but I don’t take the rings off either. When I inherited them after Mom’s death in 2004, I was a farm manager. A woman said to me, “You’re wearing diamonds to barn chores?”
Sure. I am a no-fuss person. Any jewelry I wear has to be low maintenance, or it doesn’t last long. I tend to put something on and forget about it. My plain wedding band. Small gold stud earrings. My grandmother gave me a gold signet ring when I was in the fourth grade. I’ve worn it every day since. My initials wore off long ago but that hardly matters because it’s my grandmother and my childhood I think of, not the ring.
Similarly I have treasured looking down at my mother’s rings on my hand. They have been a totem or an amulet, a visual symbol of my parents.
But after sixty-four years of constant wear they are showing their age. I’ve taken off the cracked engagement ring and will have to learn where I can have it repaired. Arthur, the elderly jeweler on Main Street who mended things for me in the past, closed his tiny shop in the recession.
Despite the diamonds, the rings in themselves are not very valuable. What is priceless to me is their emotional freight. This morning Lucy tried the rings on and when I saw them on her small hand I suddenly had a vision of generations of family women, scrolling back and rolling forward in time.