Perhaps I was not meant to keep rings. For as long as I can remember, I have lost them. There were the Cracker Jack prize rings at first, followed by the chunky mod plastic Twiggy inspired ones we thought were ever so cool. Later, the coveted birthstone rings, given for special occasions or milestones. My peridot, the August ring, was a gift for my communion. Probably age seven is too young for good jewelry, even back in the day when it was less costly and mom and pop neighborhood jewelry stores existed. Nevertheless, I lost the birthstone ring. A birthday present some years later revealed the very same ring, a few sizes bigger. I was more careful by then, this one would last. And it did. But a funny thing occurred one day as I was cleaning my room as a teenager. Something caught my eye while looking for a balled up piece of paper hidden under the radiator. A discarded love poem gone awry, just as the puppy love that inspired it. Hiding behind it, was a ring. My original small birthstone ring, covered in pink paint from the former inhabitant, my baby sister. I was happy, I’d found my ring! I slipped it on my pinkie, next to the identical bigger version on my right ring finger. I ran downstairs to tell my mother. We had a good laugh over it. “You just never know. Not everything goes down the drain,” she said. I looked at her, there was something veiled in that statement. I was not exactly responsible or careful with good jewelry. I am still not. Good thing I don’t have any, save a wedding band, but that’s a story too.
Maybe she was referring to my Confirmation, when I was given, by my godmother, a pearl ring. Very grown up. Was it the very same day that we went to dinner and I took it off while washing my hands and forgot to put it back on? It was gone by the time I remembered. From then on, it was costume jewelry for me. Like the Celtic wedding bands we bought at a Craft Fair in Montauk. I had long since had the practice of keeping on whatever rings I wore, no matter what. So after I planted fifty tulip bulbs out by the picket fence one Fall in East Hampton, I came inside to wash up. Alas, no Celtic band. The deer ate all the tulips before they could bloom and under the ground in one of the holes, is a Celtic band. I was not about to dig up all fifty tulips and I had a vision of one of the stems growing with a ring on it. Never happened. There was a silver and turquoise band that I replaced it with, purchased at the Fisherman’s Fair in Springs. I loved that ring too. Kept it on all the time. And one particular hard year, I offered it up to an outdoor statue at a sacred place for healing. I never went back to check if it was still there. The year did improve though.
And then one year, the darkest cloud descended and things fell apart. I still wore my favorite Sanskrit ring and a Claddagh ring, a birthday gift from the former Irish shop in Greenport. But the unique simple antique looking wedding band had to go. It was a time for freedom in a way I had never had and had to experience. It was the saddest cloud before the light poked though. I sold my ring in Southampton for next to nothing and walked out of the shop like I had a limb amputated. But I was free. It was surreal. I had been married for my entire life, it seemed. I kept staring at my finger. I would go to the Fisherman’s Fair, alone, and buy a new ring to mark this sad yet freeing occasion. Maybe an amber or lapis stone. It would have significant meaning, certainly.
I was raised Catholic but I am lapsed. I believe in a more inner peaceful, mindful, kindness- based practice now, peppered with yoga and Sanskrit chants and Buddhist thoughts. Rumi turns me on. I digress. The marriage did not implode after all. Well, I take that back. Implode, it did. There were battle stations and sides taken and revisionist history moments. In the end, a relationship renovation would occur, unbeknownst to either of us. Was it divine intervention? I don’t know. One of us believed in something and one only in scientific proof. Personally, there was a lot of introspection going on, under a pergola I had dreamed of once and found that summer alone. A true Virginia Wolfe room of one’s own. A seemingly necessary passage, just a village away from my home. Now, since I was returning home to my house and marriage, I wanted my ring. But I had sold it. For beans. Literally. I had used the money to have myself a little feast that day, to celebrate my independence, with Balsam Farms pickled green beans ( I still have the jar) and August peaches and fresh bread to toast the next morning in my little toaster in my little abode. I thought nostalgically of that day as I drove to Southampton.
I walked into the pawn shop and told the owner my story. He said if he had not sold my ring, it would be in a bag he retrieved from under the counter. It was a large Ziploc bag filled with rings and bracelets. I dug in, scooping up rings. Nothing. I put the bag on the counter and a tear fell on the glass case. The owner walked over and took the bag and turned it over a few times, shaking it. Kind of like you do when you’re coating chicken in breadcrumbs. He set the bag down. “Have another look,” he said, meeting my eyes. He had a kind face. I gathered myself and held the bag up to the sunlight. There in the corner was recognition. I dug deep in the bottom of the bag and chose my ring. I slipped it on. It fit. The owner asked if I wanted it cleaned. I said, “No thanks.” Later I would give it a sea salt bath and the chips would sparkle again. “Are you okay?” the owner asked. “Yes, thank you,” I said, and the tears came. He handed me a tissue. “Be happy,” he said. “I will,” I managed, and walked outside. I felt peaceful.
Fast forward to last summer, a beautiful August day at Napeague. The tide was low at the bay, so we sat in the water talking and laughing, the two same people, forever changed, and hopefully wiser. Like Goethe said, “The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” I lay on my back and close my eyes, absorbing the perfect day. My husband said, “Check out these little shrimp.” He was furiously digging with his hands and scooping up handfuls of sand and apparently tiny shrimp. “Who knew?” I said. Some things remain the same. He would always be a kid at heart and he did love those sea monkeys he had as a teenager. Basically, brine shrimp. “Are you hungry?” I asked. I knew that answer too. We toweled off and headed to Montauk.
Seated on a barstool at Ciao by the Beach, sipping a delicious chilled concoction du jour, my husband turned to me suddenly and said, “Where’s my ring?” I looked down at his very tanned hand and saw a thin band of white. “I don’t know.” And then we realized. The shrimp. We finished our drinks and drove back to the bay. We waded out to the spot where he had been digging. There were no shrimp and there was no ring. He was quiet. That was a change. “It’s just a ring,” I said. He looked at me. “You don’t read something more into it?” I didn’t. That was a change too. “No. You were up to your elbows in shrimp. One of them has a new necklace.” We laughed. “Let’s go home,” he said. And we did. Not everything goes down the drain.