Mum’s Ruby Ring by Noreen O’Brien

I was about twelve years old and in seventh grade at Northeastern Junior High School when Mum had her ruby ring repaired for me. As I recall, she was given this ring by her parents when she was about the age of twelve.

The ruby, an oval shaped stone, is set in a pretty set of raised prongs atop a yellow gold band. I loved it because it was Mum’s first and then handed down to me, and for the ruby red coloring, but mostly because of its regal setting—it looked as if it should be on the finger of royalty.

I loved wearing that ring, and would sit at my school desk, pose my hand in a variety of positions and switch between first left, then right hand, in order to find the best possible angle to show it off. Sometimes I would stand a purse-sized mirror on my school desk or bedroom vanity for more of an “outsider” view of how the ring looked on my finger. I felt so grow up!

A few years before receiving the ring, when I was eight and in the fourth grade, my Uncle Ernie was struck and killed by a hit and run driver. I adored my uncle and I was his pet and that first Christmas after he passed, I was given the wristwatch he had purchased for me a few months before his death. My Timex had a tiny, yellow-gold colored face and a fine, double-strapped wristband, and was what my mother called a “dress” watch as opposed to a day-to-day “working” watch. At the segment the face was attached to the band was a Miraculous medal, a tiny, oval shaped blue enameled medal with the Blessed Virgin Mary on it. We used these medals on our baby’s diaper pins, too.

Wearing both my watch and my ruby ring, I definitely felt mature and responsible. Until one day, while sitting at my school desk in homeroom waiting for the dismissal bell to ring, I glanced down at the Formica desktop and saw my ruby stone sitting there—and panic set in! I whipped my left hand up to my face and there sat the ring on my ring finger, but it looked gutted!

My insides were in a raging turmoil at the sheer thought of what would’ve happened if I were anywhere but at my desk when the stone fell out. I had already lost the ring my father made for me when I was a baby. That ring was made out of a nut, as in nut and bolt, not the fruit, and had fallen between the cracks of the old wooden main staircase of the Hanscom elementary school, never to be seen again. At 65 years of age, I’m still relieved I was never asked what happened to that ring. The school was torn down some years ago and I still think of that ring, with the teeny capital “N” engraved across its top, resting under the pile of rubble.

I managed to get the ruby and band back home safely and showed them to my mother, who said she’d always worried about that happening because one prong wasn’t quite long enough to help hold the stone securely in place. I remember staring at her, brows furrowed, wondering why she hadn’t told me this before. Years later, when I was in my twenties, I had the ring put back together again so that I could hand it down to my daughter when she was about twelve years old. But that never happened—Amy was, and remains, irresponsible. Even now, her husband follows behind Amy when she shops and collects the dollar bills that fall from her pockets.

Dear Granddaughter Zoe is much like her mother, so she hasn’t received the ruby, either. Not yet. One day, I will take the ring out of my safety deposit box, where it sits with my watch from Uncle Ernie, and hand it to Zoe, but not until I feel ready to fully “let it go.” Maybe I’ll wait until after I’m gone so I don’t have to feel the pain of it disappearing. I just don’t see the weight of that ring being as hefty for my girls as it was for me, and that’s ok. This is but one of those things I would rather hold in my dreams as of value to our future generations from a sentimental place in the heart. I think it best I not know for certain that this is my sentiment alone.

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