The things we need

In the Italian tradition, I was named after my grandmother, Maria. Our bonds are too numerous to mention, but they include these: She was there when I was born on her half-birthday, and, on my birthday 37 years later, I was honored to be present with her as she passed away.

After that, my grandfather wore her wedding band on a chain around his neck. About ten years ago, I was scheduled to have a mastectomy. The week before my surgery, we were celebrating his birthday at his home in Pittsburgh. He was in his 90’s so none of us told him about my upcoming surgery. I lived 600 miles away and could easily go through it without him knowing and worrying.

But as we sat around the table, he looked at me, took the chain from around his neck, slid my grandmother’s ring off the end and handed it to me.

“You need this,” he said simply. Stunned, I accepted it.

A few years later, when my own wedding band became too tight on my finger, I started wearing hers. I liked knowing that she wore this ring as she kneaded dough, gardened, and washed the dishes – all things I remember. I like that it makes me feel that she is near.

I am not someone who wears big, flashy jewelry. I never wanted and I don’t have a big diamond engagement ring, or any engagement ring at all. The rocks I prefer look more like stones than gems and they decorate my tabletops and windowsills rather than my body.

But one day, routinely deleting the countless emails from vendors, a message from Tiffany’s caught my eye. It showed three rings. One had a huge, rectangular, orange-ish gem in a gold setting, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I tried to talk myself out of it: The band was gold and (other than my grandmother’s wedding band) I wear silver or platinum. I don’t like showy jewelry. I use my hands too much to take care of a fancy ring.

Weeks passed and my obsession continued. I wasn’t comfortable with being so strongly drawn to an object like this. I decided to find out the price of the ring. Surely it would be overpriced, I thought, so I could then decide it was too expensive or unreasonable, and the desire would leave me alone.

I couldn’t find the ring on the website, and I suddenly felt panicky that they may no longer carry it. I called the store. The woman gave me the price – it was surprisingly within the range of what I would consider. She gave me the sku number – I was sure that I wouldn’t buy the ring but I wrote it down anyway so that I could find it more easily on the website and look at it when I wanted to.

My obsession did not abate, so I decided to see if the local store had it. Maybe if I looked at it, it wouldn’t live up to the hype in my mind and I would no longer want it. Calling one of the two Boston locations, I learned that Tiffany had only one of these rings left, and it was in the Boston Copley Place store. But I was busy and there was no way to see it soon.

The day before Thanksgiving brought crappy weather and we were doing nothing in particular. Again, the ring occupied my thoughts. I finally decided that I would see if it was still in the store. I drove with one of my sons into Boston to find that one ring and look at it.

The ring wasn’t in the case and it took awhile for the salesperson to find it. In the meantime, she kept showing me other rings. Pretty, sure, but nothing that I would want.

When she finally found the ring, it was like angels were singing. I tried it on my right hand – it fit perfectly. I tried it on my left hand – it went well with my grandmother’s wedding band.

I texted my husband. “Get it,” he said. “Now.” (It’s possible that he, too, was just tired of my obsessing.)

We decided that he should give it to me for Christmas, and I was as excited as a little kid waiting for Santa. I couldn’t wait to wear it.

On Christmas morning at my parents’ house, I quietly opened the tiny blue Tiffany box and was wearing it as we worked in the kitchen later that day.

“Is that a citrine stone?” my sister asked.

“How did you know that?” I was surprised.

“It’s Nonna’s birthstone,” she said. “Is that why you got it?”

No, I thought. But now I know why I needed it.

25 thoughts on “The things we need

  1. Of course! I LOVE your connection with your Nonna and other angels! May this ring envelop you in their love and give you strength when you need it. xoxo

  2. Where’s my box of tissue? Oh Marie, this brings up so many feelings and memories for me. I wore my grandma’s wedding dress (handmade by my great-grandma) and I wore her wedding ring for the first couple of years I was married. I also have the first ring my grandpa gave her, a beautiful blue glass stone that I don’t wear often enough because it’s a little loose. I never thought to wear it around my neck. Maybe I’ll try that. I’ve always felt that objects can hold onto a bit of who loved them. I love that you finally gave in and got the ring!

  3. Your writing is breathtaking…how you can be so aware of the connections to people in your life and self aware about your own feelings is inspirational to me! I would have never allowed myself to experience that beautiful moment because I would have judged myself with being “materialistic” without ever being open to WHY that ring was meant to be yours and worn with your grandmothers ring! What a lovely gift and what a beautiful story!

    • Oh, Kathy K, I will tell you my secret….I am NOT so aware in the moment. Not at all. At least, it doesn’t feel that way. Most often, the way it works is this: Something nags at me to be written. In this case, I was sitting in tong ren (where I try to keep my mind quiet!) and the feelings and visions of my grandfather giving me the wedding band, and talking with my sister on Christmas Day, kept swirling in and wouldn’t leave me alone. So after tong ren, I sat down to write. And LOTS of stuff came out. It didn’t all make sense, and some of it was a surprise to me. When I later edited and pared it all down, this was what came out. In the moment, talking with my sister, I remember feeling stunned but I couldn’t make sense of the feeling and I didn’t have focus at the time to even think about it. But the feeling was sort of a stunned confusion. So that felt important and I wasn’t so surprised that that returned to me to unravel, But the connection between the ring and my grandmother and the ring and my grandfather – that only became suddenly clear in the writing.
      It feels to me like you get this kind of thing in movement?

      Anyway, thank you for your very kind words – all of them!

      Oh, and yes, I totally relate to the guilt over the materialistic part – I didn’t like the part of myself that felt like I “needed” this ring. During the whole experience, I kept thinking that I was being too materialistic, I should take the same amount of money and give it to the poor or buy something for someone in need, etc. Even though I kept thinking of that story in the Bible where Mary is using oil on Jesus’s feet and Judas talks about what a waste that is. And Jesus basically says (in my interpretation) that it can be okay to treat yourself. That you don’t have to always deny yourself for others. But I still felt like it wasn’t something I needed and I didn’t like that huge desire that kept coming up. Though I am glad that, in the end, it all came together.

      Sending you love and light.

    • Thanks, Eleanor. You have heard ALOT of stories too! And thank you also for your nice words about my writing. That makes me feel good. By the way, I talk about your and your wonderful family quite often. You guys inspire me.

  4. I loved this story! It made me think of Mette’s connection to her grandmother and Lilly. Do you remember that story? As I write to you, I am wearing my mother’s wedding ring and taking even more comfort in it having read your story. Your writing gift is inspiring and uplifting to so many people! Happy New Year dear friend! I will be thinking of you today, and will call you next week to tell you all about Ecuador.

    • Oh, I so remember that story – thank you for the reminder. Wasn’t that so powerful?! I love love LOVE that you are wearing your mother’s wedding ring. It feels (to me) like a connection to your father as well. Thank you for your nice words on my writing and glad you feel uplifted. Can’t wait to hear about Ecuador! xo

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