I lost my mother’s wedding band. It was a Thursday night, and I was cleaning out my purse as I was preparing to attend an all-day conference on Friday when I realized I had lost it. The last time I had been aware of the ring was three weeks prior. That was the afternoon we had an unexpected mighty wind and rain storm. While sitting in the living room on that warm October day, we had a front-row view of the swirling rain, the leaves flying by, and our neighbor’s house across the street disappearing from view. We weren’t immediately aware the thud we heard and felt was the tree resting on our house.
Our neighbor called me, asking if we were okay. Because of the tree on our house. That’s when we knew. The storm was short-lived, and we went outside to see what our neighbor was talking about. It was a grand old tree,
living about six feet from our house. The wind uprooted it and it was on the edge of the roof, having made its own divot for its new resting place. The top of the tree draped most of our roof and extended over the opposite side of the house. When we went back inside, we saw we had cracked walls and ceilings in our bedrooms, and the ceiling in the attic now contoured to its new resident.
I was giddy with relief knowing the tree did not crush us. But we had no idea if it was stable, or if it could still fall further. We made calls: to our insurance, to the police, and to my daughter to say we were safe and could we spend the night? We started packing our bags. I wondered, what was in our house I would regret losing if the house was crushed? I thought about pictures, but suddenly they didn’t feel as important as being alive. I did realize the value of my mother’s rings. The stone portion is a custom setting holding my grandmother’s faux ruby engagement stone and my mother’s petite engagement diamond. After her mother died, my mother inherited the ring. My mother joined it with her engagement ring and kept the matching wedding band separate, to be able to wear it alone in the ordinary days.
The last picture of my mother wearing it was at our 2008 Christmas gathering. My niece orchestrated the photo, which was a hands-only picture of all of the women in my extended family. During the photo shoot, her youngest great-granddaughter, a toddler, was captured reaching her plump finger for that pretty ring on my mother’s hand. It’s a precious memory.
When my mother died my middle sister became the ring’s new keeper. My extended family gathered last summer and the women wanted to replicate the picture of our hands. We were aware of the absence of my mother in this picture and was a bittersweet occasion. The ring was now on my sister’s hand, and her toddler granddaughter reached for my ring on my hand. The tears welled up at the innocent repeat of this touching scene. After the photo, my sister asked if I would want to borrow the ring until we saw each other again, in nine months. I was touched by her gesture and accepted. The ring easily fit my finger, as opposed to my sister’s slender, honed piano-playing fingers.
My daughter and I had our hands’ picture taken, and I wore my newly entrusted, borrowed treasure. When our family saw the pictures back at our separate homes, there were comments that my hand was mistaken for my mother’s by several people.
It was fun to bring the ring home and show it to my women friends, but I only wore it on dressing up occasions. It hung on the trunk of my little porcelain elephant ring holder; also from my mother.
On that October afternoon, when the firefighters came to our house and said we should leave soon, as the house and the tree may not be stable, I grabbed my mother’s rings and put them in the pocket in my purse where I keep my keys. And didn’t give them much thought. When we returned to a home with no tree resting on it five days later, it did not occur to me to place my mother’s rings on the waiting elephant ring holder. And when I realized my mother’s wedding band was not in the purse anymore, three weeks had passed since I had hastily stuffed them in my purse.
After carefully searching the pockets and lining of the purse to no avail, I had many thoughts. One was of relief, of not losing the unique stone portion of the set. Another thought was one of wonderment, that even though I thought I had recovered from the recent uprooting of our lives, evidently I was not functioning at the level I needed. I didn’t realize keeping those precious rings in a pocket with my keys was a recipe for disaster. I thought of the times I quickly wrangled my keys out, in a race with my husband to use my remote door opener before he could. And of the times I was talking or laughing, in conversation with someone, at the same time, I was fishing for my keys. I strained for a memory of the sound of a ring falling on the floor or pavement but didn’t find one. I mostly thought about the fact I would need to tell my sister of my poor decision and that it now was her loss as well.
When I went to bed that night, I refused to go to the place of despair and shame to which I am a familiar traveler. I decided to be open to the gifts of this experience I had given myself, even when no gifts seemed apparent. I also decided those feelings were not productive and I wanted to sleep. I was impressed I was able to sleep. And do the next indicated thing, which was to attend the conference on Friday.
On Saturday, I started the morning feeling teary and sad. I made myself focus on looking for the ring. I made a list of all of the places I had frequented in the last three weeks, a total of twenty-three. I called my daughter first and was disheartened when she said the street sweeper had recently come through their neighborhood. We had parked on the street when we stayed there, and one of my theories was that I dropped the ring by the car door. If that was the case, the ring was gone.
My husband and I visited eight places that day, with no one having the ring. Sunday we visited several places, with no luck. I had little hope of finding it and was going to also check pawn shops, and talk to the police. But first, I intended to personally retrace my steps to all twenty-three places. Monday we set out again. By this time I had my spiel down pat, so when I went to the thirteenth place, the restaurant I had been to last Thursday, I recited my information about a lost gold wedding band. When the manager said, ”Yes, we found it in the booth and the other manager has it”, I was taken aback. I gasped and cried with relief. We were not immediately reunited, as the other manager had left it in her pocket and lived eighty miles away. But she would be back to the local restaurant on Wednesday; in two days, at five pm.
In the interim, I found I was still mentally in the search mode; I had difficulty turning it off. One of the places I was sure had a high potential of losing the ring was a local walking path we frequent. We had been parking on the edge of a gravel road. When we visited it again, I found myself thinking about going down the gravel road to look for the ring. I reminded myself the search was off; the ring was found. My husband shared that he too still thought of looking for the ring there. I continued to mentally compose the email I intended to send my sister, delivering the news of the lost ring with which she had entrusted me. I told myself I now had a different ending to report.
When I returned to the restaurant on Wednesday and was reunited with the ring, I was surprised how small it was. I knew it was wider than a typical woman’s wedding band, but it had expanded with my imagination and fears. The manager who had it was concerned I would be upset she had inadvertently taken it home. I wasn’t, but for penance, I made her listen to the story of the ring. She was sweet and indulged me.
With the ring back in my possession, I considered sending it back to my sister immediately so I wouldn’t have the chance to lose it again. I decided I wanted to trust myself and keep it as originally planned. The ring now has its own jewelry box and stays in the box or on my finger. I decided to wear it again because that’s why I have it.
I learned several things:
- I would have saved some time if I had looked for the ring in the places I had been most recently. I lost it the day I noticed it was gone. I didn’t give myself credit for at least unconsciously noticing its continued presence in my purse those three weeks.
- Losing the ring did not feel like disappointing my mother, or losing a connection to my mother. I have other things of my mother’s which I treasure, but they are not my connecting point to her. I am connected to her via my heart and soul, not her stuff. My sorrow was that I had lost something valuable to my sister. I so hated making a mistake that involved her. I had every confidence our relationship would stay intact; that she loves me. But I don’t easily let myself off the hook when I make a mistake that impacts others.
- I remembered the phrase: I made a mistake, but I am not a mistake. It was tempting to go there, to feel like I was a mistake, but I didn’t allow myself this time.
- I did lose some self-confidence. When a woman-friend lent me something, I almost cautioned her I might lose it. I stopped myself from saying it and did some self-talk about how few times I have actually lost anything of value. And that I can learn to trust myself again.
- If I had not found the ring, I was confident there would still be blessings in this experience. Even though I was saddened, there could be cool things that could occur because of the loss. One nice thing that did happen was the kindness of the people when I inquired about the ring. They did what they could to locate it at their establishment. Some gave suggestions, such as checking pawn shops and calling the police. They all sent me off with “I hope you find it!”.
- To have hope the seemingly impossible can be possible. Naw, let’s just go with there are miracles in our lives. I will continue to stay open to those miracles.