I knew the rule about snooping through my parents’ room. I wasn’t supposed to do it.
My mother said it was rude to go through other people’s things without their permission. I agreed with her reasoning. After all, I knew I would be livid if someone was poking around in my room, rummaging through the stashes of treasures stuffed back in various places.
And yet, I did it anyway.
Let me clarify. I didn’t pilfer through everything in my parents’ bedroom. I was mostly interested in their large chest of drawers. And truthfully, it wasn’t all of the drawers. Who cared about the ones crammed with socks? I was only interested in one drawer.
The top middle one.
The one that held all sorts of odds and ends that were clues about who my parents were before I existed, like my dad’s old tin box filled with tarnished 4-H pins and tie tacks that had no backs.
There were other treasures too, like a seashell necklace my mom got when she met my dad in Hawaii during his R&R from his year serving in Vietnam. I suppose a seashell necklace might sound rather gaudy, but it really was a dainty necklace. The shells were tiny, all the same size, and a beautiful golden color. I longed to see my mother put the seashells around her neck, even though it was hard to imagine my mother wearing such a necklace. As far as I knew, the only jewelry she ever wore besides her plain silver wedding band were a couple of pretty brooches on the lapels of her Sunday dresses. Sometimes I would look at the photos of my parents enjoying Hawaii together and think about the necklace and wonder about the person she was before she became my mother.
But the thing that drew me back to that forbidden drawer again and again was the sapphire ring.
Truly, this was the most impressive ring I had ever seen in my short life. To begin with, it seemed absolutely enormous. The ring spiraled into a tall cone of sapphires, which were the deepest, loveliest blue imaginable. Their color reminded me of the blue that ringed the irises of my mother’s eyes. Interspersed among the sapphires were small diamonds, which glittered in the light.
I remember that once my mother told me about the sapphire ring, stating that my dad brought it back to her from Vietnam. “Jewelry was cheaper there,” she said matter-of-factly.
Once when I asked my mother why she never wore the ring, she responded, “Paige, this is a cocktail ring. It’s meant to be worn on fancy occasions, such as a formal dinner party when a lady might wear an evening gown. I don’t go to parties like that so there is never an occasion for me to wear this ring.”
I was disappointed by her answer. Not because I didn’t understand her reasoning exactly, but rather because I wanted her to love the ring as much as I did. I wanted her to wear it anyway, even if there wasn’t a fancy party or grand occasion. Yet that was not my mother’s way, and so the beautiful sapphire and diamond ring was hidden away in the drawer.
Throughout the years of my childhood, I continued to regularly dig around in my parent’s top middle drawer. The contents rarely changed, but that wasn’t the reason I went snooping around. The truth is I was drawn to that ring like a moth to the light. Each time I eased open that drawer, I would immediately pull out the ring, and put it on my finger. Often, I would go over to the piano and play a song or two, envisioning I was a grand concert pianist performing before a large crowd of people. Other times, I stood in front of the mirror pretending to be a model or a superstar posing for photographs.
I might have been young, but I was certain of two things:
- This was the most beautiful ring in the entire world.
- Someday this ring would be mine to keep.
Neither turned out to be true … at least not in the way I envisioned.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
My great-grandmother, whom I called “Ma,” was a formidable figure in my life. She was a rather feisty woman, known for speaking her mind. She had an immense, intense, somehow fierce sort of love for her family.
And I adored her.
I was probably around 11 or 12 when I started sitting next to Ma in church. I didn’t want to sit with my parents anymore, but I knew they weren’t going to allow me to sit just anywhere. So I decided to sit next to Ma … at least initially because I knew she kept a stash of peppermints in her purse. At that time in my life, peppermints made just about any sermon better.
This might sound strange, but at some point I realized that I continued to sit next to Ma because I loved to hold my great-grandmother’s soft, wrinkled hands and admire the rings on her long fingers. She always had on a thin gold band along with an amethyst ring in the shape of a flower.
Purple has long been my favorite color. As much as I loved my September birthday, I truly wished my birthstone might be the lovely amethyst rather than the sapphire. Sunday after Sunday, I sat next to my great-grandmother and admired her purple flower ring.
Once my great-grandmother allowed me to try her ring on for size. As I stared at the ring on my own finger, I was captivated by its beautiful simplicity. When compared to my mother’s gloriously ornate sapphire and diamond ring, the amethyst flower on my great-grandmother’s hand seemed somewhat plain. Yet, I found it to be just as lovely.
Maybe this was the most beautiful ring in the world.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Christmas 1988 … give or take a year.
My parents gave me a beautiful sapphire necklace. I was thrilled!
While I preferred purple amethysts, sapphires were also among my favorite gems as it was my birthstone. My younger sister received an identical necklace, even though she wasn’t a September baby. It felt special for the two of us to have matching necklaces.
Later I learned the sapphires came from my mother’s ring, the one tucked away and never worn. Deep inside me, perhaps because of the little girl who used to sneak peaks at that enormous ring, there was a twinge of disappointment. I owned half of the sapphires, but …
What I once though to be the most beautiful ring in the world was no more.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
When my dad died 4 years ago, I found myself looking for ways to connect with him. I know it sounds strange … and maybe its just a way of grieving. You see, I knew he was no longer here with me, and I didn’t have any belief that he could hear me talking to him from the other side. As a Christian, I believe that because of my father’s faith in Jesus Christ when he died he went on to heaven to be with his Savior. And I don’t believe that he is up there looking down on me, or currently serving as some guardian angel in my life.
And yet … I just wanted to connect to my dad.
So I pulled out the sapphire necklace made from the sapphires he had brought to my mother from Vietnam before I was born. I thought perhaps wearing that around my neck would be a sweet reminder of my much-loved daddy.
But when I pulled the necklace out of my jewelry chest, I immediately saw the chain was hopelessly knotted. I remembered instantly why I hadn’t worn it in several years. The super find gold chain had knotted like that in one of my many moves. Even though I had tried many times before, I wrestled again and again with the knots, attempting to make the necklace wearable once more.
All of my attempts failed.
For a long time, the necklace lay on the top of my dresser, near where I put my wedding rings every night. I noticed it nearly every day, and thought about taking it to a jeweler to have the fine gold chain repaired. But I never did.
A year went by and then two …
One day, as I had my wedding rings cleaned in the jewelry store, I noticed a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring in the shape of a delicate flower. I pointed it out to Jon. “My next anniversary gift,” I teased him. “Probably not this year,” he responded lightheartedly.
But I couldn’t forget that ring.
Six months later, I went back to have my wedding rings cleaned again. I looked, and to my delight, the sapphire flower ring was still in the glass case. Jon wasn’t with me, so I asked the sales clerk if I could try it on. It slipped perfectly on my finger.
I did not want to take it off … but I did, somewhat reluctantly.
That was in April. All through the spring and into the summer, I thought and thought about that ring. It cost about $500, a bit out of the price range for our lower middle class income to spend on birthday, Christmas or anniversary gifts. The more I thought about the ring, the more I wished I could figure out a way to afford it. I loved the sweet flower setting as it reminded me so much of my great-grandmother and her lovely amethyst ring. And the sapphires … well, they nearly perfectly matched the sapphires on my necklace.
That was it! Instead of having the chain repaired, perhaps I could have those sapphires reset into a flower ring.
I tentatively brought the idea up to Jon. “I don’t know,” he said. “It might cost just as much to have the sapphires reset as it would to buy the ring you admire. Besides, are you sure you want to mess with the necklace your daddy gave you?”
I wasn’t sure.
So I thought about it some more. Once, I went back to the jewelry store to look at the lovely flower ring. My favorite sales lady said, “You really love this sapphire ring! When are you going to convince Jon to buy it for you?”
I laughed … and then told her about my sapphire necklace at home. “How much would it cost to have those sapphires reset into a similar setting?” I asked.
“Well … I am not sure. We could send it off to our jeweler, but he resides in another state, He will let us know what options you have regarding reseting the stones. I couldn’t tell you a price until we heard back from him. If that’s something you would like to do, then you would have to be willing to sign paperwork stating you understand we are not responsible if the sapphires you give us are lost or damaged while in our care.”
I was not willing to take the risk.
But when I told Jon what I had been told, he suggested we visit another jewelry store that had an in-house jeweler to get a few estimates. So, one September Saturday, about a week before my birthday, Jon and I set out to talk with a jeweler.
We went into one jewelry store and the quoted price was more than the purchase price of pretty ring that had started it all. “I was afraid of that,” Jon said. “Do you want to keep looking?”
I didn’t have to think long or hard about it. I immediately responded, “Yes … I do want to keep looking. Because I know that what I really want is not just any sapphire ring. I want to use my daddy’s sapphires to make a ring, and I want them in a flower setting.”
Jon looked at me and said, “I can’t promise you I can make that happen for this birthday or even your next birthday. It may not be for several years, depending on the cost. But if that’s what you want, then let’s find out the best way we can begin to work toward making that happen.”
Later that afternoon, Jon and I walked into a jeweler’s for what we thought would be just another estimate. But this time, after the jeweler heard me describe what I wanted, she said, “Actually, I don’t think we need to reset these sapphires at all. They are currently set in a diamond shape now, comprised of five rows of sapphires. You can see how there is one sapphire at each end of the diamond shape, with two sapphires on the second and fourth rows, and three sapphires set on the middle row. Now watch me … If I lay the charm on its side so that it makes a wide diamond-shape instead of a tall one, it’s easier to see that if we were to simply clip off each of the end sapphires, a flower shape would be what remained. That “sapphire flower” could then be mounted on a ring. It would save you quite a lot of money if we didn’t have to reset those tiny sapphires.”
Suddenly I saw it too. The flower had been there all along!
The new price was less than half of every other quoted cost, making it fall within the budget Jon had given me. I happily left my sapphire necklace with the jeweler and ten days later I picked up my beautiful new sapphire flower ring.
Even thought it really is a simple ring, I think it is the most beautiful ring I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The sapphires are a deep blue. The ones my dad brought home to my mom from Vietnam.
The flower setting reminds me of my great-grandmother, and all those times I sat holding her soft and wrinkled hands.
Now every time I look at my right hand, I think about my daddy and my great-grandmother … and I am reminded that love between people doesn’t end with death.
I also think about my husband who works hard to provide so well for our family, and yet didn’t freak out because I kept thinking about what must have seemed like a very frivolous thing. He could have shut me down. Instead, he was willingly to help me find a way to make it happen.
And I’m reminded of how I desired something so much I was willing to search for it … and in the end, I discovered it had been with me all along.
I suppose there is something profound in all of that. Or maybe it’s just a story that means something to me. I just know that the sapphire flower on my right hand is far more than a birthstone ring.
It’s a visual connection to people I love … and a beautiful reminder that sometimes the things I desire the most are much closer than I ever realized.
But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. ~Deuteronomy 4:29 (NKJV)