I can give you $40, the man behind the jewelry store counter tells me.
It's so small, he says. He gives a slight shrug to his shoulders. Like an apology.
I wrote about my mother's wedding band several years ago. She never intended for me to have it. It ended up with me because my brother decided I should have it. As the only daughter, it should belong to you.
We both knew better. Her last will and testament said otherwise.
The one and only time I visited her grave, I watched my brothers as they stood separately and silently in front of her headstone. Two boys, now grey-haired men, who never agreed on anything, agreed on this: They missed their mother. I watched as they placed the stones on the top of her headstone. The eldest handed me a small smooth stone and nodded towards my mother's grave.
Later that day, my brother put the ring in my hand.
It belongs to you. We both knew that was a lie.
My mother's hands were large and capable. Her hands kneaded bread and smoothed the wrinkles from the shirts she ironed. Her ring was a circle of tiny diamonds. She bought it herself when she got married. She wore it while she cooked, baked, ironed. Her hands never touched my face, or smoothed my hair. Her hands never touched me.
I knew I would never wear the ring, but I carried it back home with me along with all my regrets. To not be the daughter your mother wanted is a terrible burden.
I wrote about the ring again when I decided I would sell it. My own daughter didn't want it. She would never wear something from someone who didn't love her own mother. She knew how it felt to have her face touched, her hair smoothed. The ring stayed in the top drawer for another year or maybe two.
I am standing on the other side of the counter at the jewelry store.
I can give you $40. The man behind the counter shrugs his apology. It's so small.
I want to tell him that she had to buy it herself. That she hated her marriage, her daughter, her life. I want him to know that this ring was the best she could give herself. That she deserved better.
Thank you, no. I'll just hang onto it a while longer.
I smile politely at the man as I slip my mother's ring back into the soft cotton pouch.
It comes back home with me one more time.
I wrap it in bubble wrap and carefully write my brother's name and address on the front of the package.
I imagine my mother's tears trapped in each tiny diamond.
I step out of the post office, light and determined, like the January sun.
The first story~