I wear two rings. Between them, they remind me of who I am, and who stands behind me. They represent two people, larger than life, who are with me now only in spirit.
On my right hand, a ring that belonged to my Bubi. When she offered me a piece of her jewellery, many years ago, I chose this ring because I remember her always wearing it, and when I see it, I see her. I have worn it ever since, a tangible reminder of a remarkable woman who loved me unconditionally, and taught me so much.
On my left hand, a simple moonstone solitaire. Close to forty years ago, teenaged me went to a charity fundraiser with my parents. Various artisans displayed their work, and this understated piece caught my eye. I was enchanted by its dreamy translucence, and returned again and again throughout the evening to gaze at it. Eventually I asked my parents to come and see. My mother was ambivalent, but my father was ready to buy it for me. I balked at the decadent $40 price tag. Dad looked at me, and asked if I felt it was worth that value — to me. “If so, go and buy it”, and he pulled two twenties from his wallet. I remember thanking him profusely, and my sheer delight all the way home. I have worn it every day since, and I have never forgotten his lesson: If something truly has value to you (not at all the same thing as objective value, or value to others), then go for it. (Only years later did I understand what it must have meant to my one-time penniless immigrant father, to be able to indulge his child this way.)
And last week, the ring was gone.
Saturday morning, it was not in its place with the other, and not on the floor, and not anywhere. Hurrying off to shul, I pushed it from my mind, trying to convince myself that it must be in the house, it was just a matter of searching until I find it. But it gnawed at me. And I knew if I hadn’t seen it in the first ten minutes of searching, there were no guarantees I’d ever find it. That night, I spent two hours looking, in vain. Not only could I have left it someplace illogical, ‘just for a moment’, but it could have fallen somewhere obscure, from just such an illogical spot. Amid vows to declutter, I realized the possibilities were infinite, and even if it was in the house, it could be years before it revealed itself. And then, with a sickening feeling, I remembered vacuuming my room earlier in the week, and hearing the ‘clunkety-clunk’ of something solid being devoured. Lesson learned; I will never assume ‘paper clip’ again – but that clunking sound mocked me as I rummaged through the vacuum canister, praying. I went outside to the garbage bin, only to find that it was empty, having been picked up that week. Dusty, sweating, defeated, I admitted at that point I’d have to give up on ever seeing it again. My single, perfect, tangible ‘Dad’ moment.
I was desolate, and so alone. I couldn’t tell my mother, as it would upset her, and she couldn’t help no matter how much she would wish to.
Wretched, I did not sleep that night. The enormity of that lost talisman just overwhelmed me, and I could not forgive myself. Why hadn’t I taken better care? Why had I been so casually negligent? Tossing, turning, flailing, I switched direction, wondering if I at least had any photos of the ring, which led to thinking that if I did, I could recreate it. Here was my Dad’s positive, pragmatic thinking. I began to move forward. A replica would not be The Ring, but at the end of the day, I understood that its value was its story, not the actual jewellery. Once I had found a solution, the nightmare was over, and I fell asleep.
The following day, I told my Mom what had happened, now that I could do so with a sense of purpose. Expecting her to point out that things are merely things, I should never get upset over them, she offered instead to cover the cost of the new ring. Hugging over the phone, I realized it would now be testament to both my parents.
* * *
That night, I found the ring. Indeed, in an obscure corner on the other side of the room. Clutching it to my heart, crying like a baby, I went straight to take its picture.
It is back on my finger now, renewed with its added layers, and lessons learned.