A little pile of rings sits on the place mat. I slip them from my fingers whenever I wash dishes. The stones might loosen and wash down with the suds; I might damage the settings.
I sit and study them after I’ve cleared away the debris of my late lunch. Here is the sapphire that belonged to my mother-in-law. My favorite curmudgeon told his daughter to ‘pick a good piece of your mother’s jewelry for Corinne.’ All the finest stuff had already been sorted and shifted. She divided a matching set between my then step-daughter and me — I got the ring, Cara got the earrings. When I found out, I offered to return the ring so her set would be complete. She declined. I’ve worn it ever since.
Here is the Thai piece that my brother’s daughter gave me when I came to help her last year. She drew her emaciated body from the bed to rummage through her jewelry box. ‘I want you to have this, Auntie,’ she whispered. ‘It’s one of my favorites. Take it. . . think of me when you wear it.’ She died a year later. I wear her gift nearly every day. At times, my fingers swell and I can’t find one on which it is comfortable; but it usually fits, and I truly do think of Angie when I see it.
The sterling silver spoon ring, I got more than fifty years ago. I sent in a fistful of Minute Maid Orange Juice pull-tabs and the cost of shipping. My mother didn’t expect the prize to be so grand. We marveled over the thought of a company sending genuine silver through the mail for the pittance that we must have spent. We’d normally buy the generic brand, since money had to be carefully budgeted. But I had seen the advertisement and begged. This ring, too, adorns my hand most every day. It reminds me of my mother and the smile that illuminated her tired face when I opened the package.
I lift the final ring from the table. In truth, I don’t often wear this one. I have about twenty rings, all sterling or karat gold. I bought this amethyst to give someone, but the person went from my life before I could. It doesn’t fit me, really; but it’s a fine ring from Vulcan’s Forge, my friend Russ’s jewelry store in Kansas City. My ownership of it makes me a little sad, though.
I lift the lid of my jewelry box. So many lovely pieces — earrings, rings, necklaces. I study the lot, wondering if my son will ever want any of it. I try not to think of my collection as cold comfort. It’s just jewelry. Stones and metal and bits of crystal. None of it measures my worth. I close the box and turn towards the stove, where the kettle furiously whistles and the Chinese tea waits.
It’s the tenth day of the seventieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.