Monday, April 2, 2012

Ring of Memories

When my mom passed away, it wasn't just her that I lost. It was all those little memories, packed up in boxes and donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or even sold at garage sales that were lost too.

I have always valued my physical possessions, almost to an unhealthy extent. I own secret locked containers and create special hiding places for everything that matters to me. And it's not about keeping personal safety deposit boxes strewn throughout my house or anything like that.

It's just about feeling the comfort of being surrounded by memories and mementos that make me feel connected to my past. I've never been able to let go of that security blanket.

Sometime while walking from my dorm to the student center on campus, I managed to lose something that, by sitting on my left-hand ring finger for about a year, had given me a sort of inexplicable security. There is no explanation for the feelings I ascribed to the little turquoise-colored ring. Just that once I'd worn it for a time, it felt like an extension of my being.

It had belonged to my mom. In the process of going through boxes of junk that were hers when she was alive, I happened upon brooches and freshwater pearl bracelets, pendants and mounds of plastic jewelry. They were all meaningless playthings.

The lost ring and me looking ridiculous.
But then in the rubble, I found a little oval ring that looked cheap, but was colored turquoise. It looked valuable to me. I had never seen my mom wear it, though. Yet it felt special. While most of my mom's rings didn't fit right on me, this ring did. So I put it on and I didn't take it off.

Each night I would remove the rings from my fingers, now having accumulated three that I wore on a regular basis. I'd place them on my desk and go to bed, obsessive-compulsively checking to be sure they were still there so I could return them to their rightful place on my fingers in the morning.

This went on for a year.

But today, somehow I was careless. The turquoise-colored ring I'd treated with such tender love and care was taken for granted, slipped off my finger somehow, some way, probably never to be seen again.

It didn't take me long to notice. Less than 15 minutes before, I remember having the ring on my finger. But by the time I'd lost it, it was too late to go back and find it. Time had passed and people had crossed the path I'd wandered. It was gone.

Some would say it's weird to ascribe so much emotional meaning to such a measly little object as a cheap ring. But for me, it was a symbol of my relationship with my mom, my loss of her and how she was still ever-present in my life.

Not long before she passed away, my mom lost the diamond from her wedding ring. It was a small diamond, easily forgotten if one did not check on it regularly. So once it was gone, there was no getting it back. Though my parents had been divorced for a time, the ring still meant a lot to her. She was broken-hearted when she lost the diamond.

For my mom, losing the main charm of her wedding ring was a terrible thing to experience and overcome. Like the marriage she'd lost, she had to contend with a residual pain of having a symbol of that marriage fall apart as well. She continued to wear the ring, despite the missing diamond.

I walk away from this experience feeling regret and anger that such an emotionally valuable heirloom was lost to me in such an insignificant instant. It could have been either of my other rings. It could have been anywhere. But it had to be the ring that had belonged to my mother, which I had been wearing on the same finger from which she had lost her wedding ring diamond.

Since her passing, I've noticed a lot of parallels in mine and my mom's life. Like me she was intelligent and driven, she was unassuming and introverted, she didn't begin dating until she was quite older. As much as I've tried to convince myself that we are incredibly different people, I've also come to recognize that we're in so many ways the same person.

Maybe it was fate that forced my ring away from me. It was time to lose that connection with my mom that has made me determine that I am so like her, perhaps even to the extent that I expect my life to play out in the same way she has.

It's not that I want to ascribe greater meaning to a situation like this, but sometimes in unusual situations - i.e. when a ring that you've been wearing every day for a year falls off your finger - you can't help but notice how histories collide.

A lot of my time has been spent thinking about how my life parallels my mother's. It has worried me and made me constantly aware of my path in life and whether I'm making the same mistakes that she did.

I know that I would never want to pine like my mom after a lost piece of jewelry representing a failed marriage. I would never want to expect my life to play out like hers simply because of a few similarities.

Maybe it's a superstitious belief that has brought me to a happier conclusion, but I can't help but hope that a situation as bad as this is accompanied by a message of hope. After years of worrying that my fate in life will be a mirror image of my mother's, I'm finally being told to stop holding onto her history. Especially on that left-hand ring finger.

Still, it's nice to have a reason to look down every day and think about a lost loved one. So even if I never get the chance to be reunited with my mom's ring, I will look for other jewelry in her massive conglomeration of personal artifacts. And I will create a connection with one of those items instead.

But I will never let it stand for that same symbolism that my turquoise ring stood for. While I never want to let go of my mom, I also don't want to give her such control over my life. Just a guiding hand and a place among my mementos and memories.

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