Shortly after my folks got divorced, mom gave me her rings. Even then I felt affected by them, their lightness contrasting with the heaviness of so long and tumultuous a marriage; so sad an ending. The rings were the happiness of their best years, the most passionate optimism; that they'd love each other forever. And they were also all the sadness of every broken promise.
I didn't know what to do with them. They're so small. They're my mother's wedding bands. I put them in a little tin and they traveled with me, wherever I went.
About a year or two later, or was it after dad had died? It's funny, but I can't remember how I got his rings. I did eventually receive them, let's put it that way. It felt right to put them together with mom's rings. So together they sat in my little Yin/Yang tin and very happily, I might add. They sat there for several years.
And then my trip to the lock box. I couldn't find the rings.
I looked in the old tansu chest I used to store them in. Not there.
I looked in the Tibetan snow lion incense box, another place they lived. Not there.
I looked in the tall, red cabinet--in every drawer--not there.
I looked in the Japanese cabinet where all my sentimental do-dads are. Not there.
I looked in my jewelry box. Not there.
I started to panic. Was it conceivable, that in all my moves, in all my clearing out of trash, that somehow they'd been lost? A terrible sick feeling began to build.
Then a light went on in my head: I have an old traveling case in which I kept all of dad's shaving paraphernalia. His brush and soap, combs, razors. An old ceramic jar of Chinese Red Stars, his pocket knife, and two others he admired. A baggie of utterly bizarre plastic items he sent to me in a letter once: a miniature baby, some pink flamingos and a fly. (?) A small ceramic frog we got at the Joseph Cornell show in New York. His ancient address book, with my photo in it. That traveling case was the last, most reasonable place the rings would be. I was nervous as hell upon opening it.
And there they were, sitting in that little tin I'd put them in so many years ago. Equal parts palpable relief and nostalgia washed over me. I took them outside in the sun and photographed them. Then tucked them back away in the box and drove them to the lock box.
Inside dad's rings are mom's initials: HHP and the date they were married.
Inside mom's rings are dad's initials: VJP and the date they were married.
Mom's rings are so much more worn than dad's. The pattern on the outside has been rubbed almost completely off in some areas. She never took those rings off. You can tell just by looking who worked hardest with their hands.
Dad's rings are so much larger than mom's. They don't even fit on my thumbs. Mom's are so small, they barely fit on my ring finger.
What a pair they were. So lovely and brilliant, yet so flawed.
As their child I love them with my whole heart, but it never made me blind to their faults. It just allowed me to love them in spite of themselves.