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Ring presents mystery and memories


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POSTED: Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sorting through my parents' possessions after their deaths, I flipped open a small brocade jewelry case I'd never seen before. A ring lay on yellowed satin among a gold metal necklace and three pins. I examined its design: a deep blue stone in a fluted gold setting with a gold star and swirls on either side of the stone.

A note in my mother's handwriting on a faded square of paper identified the jewelry as belonging to my grandma Lynn. I remembered seeing Grandma wear the necklace and pins but never this ring. Now no one was left to ask about its history. I had only my own speculations.

The ring fit my finger perfectly. The band seemed too small for Grandma's much larger hands. Perhaps the small size meant she acquired the ring as a girl. I could remember only one other item she had saved from her girlhood: a miniature china tea set perfect for serving bits of cookies and apple juice to my dolls. The ring must have had some significance for her to keep it. The more closely I looked, the more I thought the stars and swirls looked like depictions of comets shown in old drawings.

Did Grandma bequeath that interest to my brother, Don, and me? We are avid hobby astronomers. She had an old almanac and another book about stars that we pored over as children. Did she ever tell us about viewing Halley's Comet in 1910? I can't remember.

I WISH NOW that I knew more about Grandma, especially about her girlhood. She died when I was 17, and then I thought I knew everything about her I needed to know. She cooked our favorite foods and made picnic lunches packed with deviled eggs and several bottles of orange and grape Nehi sodas. She kept a drawer in her kitchen that contained anything Don and I might need for one of our projects.

On broiling Southern California summer days, she let us retreat into her walk-in pantry. We sat on the slatted floor in the dark, savoring the cool air rising from underneath the house and the aromas of pecans and raisins and cinnamon. She read stories to us at bedtime until we were teenagers. She taught us to play mah-jongg with her set of wood and carved-ivory tiles. How an Iowa farm girl who became a housewife in a rural town east of Los Angeles acquired these tiles baffles me now.

A beautiful ring that evokes memories of love - somehow the ring's history is no longer so important. What is important is my grandma valued the ring enough to keep it all her life. Someday I will hand down this ring to my own granddaughter and remind her that she comes from a line of grandmas who dearly love their granddaughters. I'll ask her to wear it when she stares up at Halley's Comet in 2061, and to remember all the family stories I've told her.