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Friday, March 02, 2012

Magic Ring Part 2

"Ice on my fingers and my toes and I'm a Taurus"

On a bright wintery afternoon a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to take some photographs of Dizzy. Inspired by Madmen, I posed her serving cocktails and dressed like a housewife from the 1950s. I was looking for a creative way to tell her that I thought she was beautiful. And also for an excuse to boss her around for an hour. To complete her costume, I figured she needed a rock on her finger. And since I was serving as temporary custodian of a family heirloom, I slipped the owl-cut diamond ring onto her finger. I made it very clear that this was a game. I was not being a bastard about it. Putting a diamond ring onto someone's finger without clear rules and expectations is not okay in my book.

Innocent fun was had... which led to less innocent fun. But first, Dizzy slid the ring off of her finger and handed it to me. I remember setting it on the low shelf opposite my bed, thinking "I'll put it back in its box in an hour or two."

Two days later I remembered the ring. In an "Oh crap, I forgot to remember" moment, I rushed to the shelf to retrieve it and put it safely back where it belonged. I also resolved that I would make it a priority to get that thing over to Amy so I don't have to be responsible for it anymore. The ring, however, was gone. An immediate sense of confusion and concern set in. I retraced steps. I laid on my bed and tried to recreate exactly where I had set the ring down. As I had trouble remembering the exact chain of events, I resolved to just search my entire bedroom. I pulled the shelf away from the wall. I got a flashlight and scanned every inch beneath my bed. I examined every surface of shelving. I pulled back the blankets and sheets and shook them out. Nothing.

Now I was starting to feel a little panic, so I called Diz and asked her if maybe she had moved it somewhere without telling me... or if she had a clearer recollection of exactly where I put it. She didn't have any new information, but she agreed to come help me look later that afternoon. For the rest of the morning I searched. I pulled out my laundry basket and rooted through every pocket. I went through every drawer in Dizzy's side table/dresser. I started having crazy thoughts, so I went and looked in the freezer. I looked in the bathroom medicine cabinet. I looked in the water tank on the back of my toilet.

When help arrived I was already starting to lose faith. We worked for a couple of hours cleaning my whole house. Diz kept reassuring me that it would turn up. The reassurances seemed like tired platitudes however. As I finished the dishes, vacuumed the carpets (and searched through the vacuum bag), and tidied up every area of the apartment... I knew it was hopeless. There was just no reason for the ring to be gone. The sheer absurdity of its disappearance convinced me that it would never show up. I thought about my mother putting her faith in me to deliver this ring. I thought about the sadness I would be causing my sister. I tried to put a cash value on the whole thing... imagining that maybe $5,000 would make my sister forget my stupidity. All these thoughts plagued me as I crawled around on my hands and knees looking for that tell-tale sparkle of a diamond in my peripheral vision. I cursed my stupidity in waiting so long to deliver it to my sister. I cursed my temptation of fate by having Dizzy wear the ring for our photo shoot. I held my head in my hands and felt a growing despair and nausea creep in. Losing this ring was going to cause so much unhappiness in the world. It was gone and I had no one to blame but myself. I felt like a useless, worthless turd. I imagined never speaking to my sister or my mother again out of shame.

As I was concluding the search, I needed to take out the trash. I knew that I couldn't throw anything away without a thorough search. Otherwise, I would always wonder if I accidentally threw it out with the garbage. I sat at my computer going through the dustbin I keep nearby. I was transferring everything to a paper bag, going through wadded up packing supplies, floor sweepings, candy wrappers and disgusting old food containers. Halfway down the trashcan, perched on a Twix bar wrapper I remember buying three weeks prior while meeting my old friend Chris Holland for dinner, I saw the ring. It sat there. Nonchalant.

The ring refused to tell me how the hell it got there. It refused to make any excuses for its behavior at all. I stared at it, my jaw slightly agape. It stared back at me, equally dumb. In disbelief, I plucked it from its strange moorings, saw the little crack in the lower shank where the gold band had been bent and rebent too many times. It was real. I had found it... after completely losing all hope! I laughed. I ran to kiss Diz and tell her I was redeemed!

After this, I held the ring with a strange mistrust. I knew it was a fickle thing. I placed it gingerly into its box. I placed the box in a well-lit shelf in my living room where I could spy it easily. I made arrangements to go visit my sister immediately, and I invited no one into my apartment before going to see her. On the day I drove up to the Kingston/Edmonds ferry I put the jewelry box into a zip-up breast pocket on my coat ensuring that I could feel it at all times.

My sister and my nephew and I sat at a table in the Drifter's Tavern each with a pint of beer. After all the appropriate small talk, I told her I had something for her... something entrusted to me by our mother. I pulled the small box out of my pocket and saw Amy's hands tremble. She set down her Budweiser. I looked sideways at the box and told her the story related to me about the ring and about our aunt's decision that it should belong to her. I laughed about how it made me nervous to go through US Customs with it... and I told her the story of how I thought I had lost it. I joked that this would just "increase the history and curiosity of the heirloom." Finally, I opened the box and reached it out to her.

Amy could not speak for some time. Her eyes filled with tears. She told me about the significance of the ring and how it was a powerful memory of her love for our grandmother. She put the ring on her finger for a second and immediately took it off as if she couldn't bear to actually wear it. We sat for another hour at the bar and drank two more pints before I returned to the ferry dock. I was filled with a sense that our family, however fragmented, still had bonds. I thought about how much I loved my nephew as he sat with us, unwittingly representing a whole new generation with their own history to make. And oddly, I felt proud. Proud that I had played some small little role in the destiny of this ring and in the powerful emotions between my beloved sister and our long-dead family matriarch.

When I related this story in detail to my friend Walter, he had a surprisingly mystical take on it. He told me that perhaps my ordeal of losing the ring was the Universe's way of making me empathize with how my sister had felt for years. I had never considered this, but it immediately struck me as profoundly accurate. I don't know if the ring will give my sister the sense of relief that I felt... if it will bolster her sense of being loved and connected to a family... if it will make her feel like laughing and kissing the loved ones around her... but I hope it will. I hope that my grandmother's unquestionable love for her and for all of us is so strongly imbued into that ring that it feels like the best hug imaginable.



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