When I was a little girl, my favorite color was purple. I loved anything and everything in shades of purple – from the fresh light purple lilacs that blossomed each spring in our backyard to the deep dark purples of dresses, hair ribbons and toys.
When I first got a room of my own in our 1970′s split-level house, my mom promised me that I could have it any color my heart desired. Of course I picked purple. From the shaggy deep purple carpet blanketing the floor to the lavender purple stripped wallpaper shooting up to the ceiling, my room was a perfect purple paradise in the eyes of a six-year-old girl.
There was always one purple thing that I loved beyond all. My grandmother’s purple Amethyst ring.
Every Christmas, after our family of five made the grueling three-day drive from Minnesota to Texas, jam-packed in our diesel wood-paneled station wagon, the first thing my grandma would show me was the purple ring. After we unpacked the car and settled in, my grandma would pull me aside and take me into her room and show me her jewelry box. There it was, resting in the back lefthand side of the wooden box, the one thing I so adored and treasured so much. The purple ring.
Calling me “Coley”, she promised me that one day that ring would be mine. She never wore it anymore. I’m not sure why. But she promised to keep it there in the jewelry box, safe from harm, and waiting for me. I looked into her matching blue eyes and smiled.
As a young child, of course I didn’t want to think of the inevitable day of her no longer being there to show me the purple ring. Death was something I could hardly understand or comprehend. I was only six.
However, over the years it became obvious that I received a priceless gift that not many other of my friends could claim their own. My grandparents.
On both my maternal and paternal side, my grandparents all lived long, happy lives for the most part. My grandma Emily, keeper of the purple ring, even lived to see me get married when I was 28. She continued on strong until shortly thereafter when she passed away one night calmly in her sleep.
I will never forget the call. I was in my office in Minneapolis when my husband rang to ask me to meet him for lunch. It was a cold fall day. We often met for lunch so I didn’t think his request was anything out of the ordinary. Yet when we arrived at our meeting point he told me the news. My beloved grandma had passed away. I was shocked, and burst into tears.
It wasn’t that her death was so shocking. She was in her eighties. I just didn’t expect it to be her. I had always wrongfully assumed that my grandpa would be the first to leave this world. Yet he surprised us all and continued to live on for another decade, passing away at the ripe age of 96 just last spring.
A few days after the news of my grandmothers death, I was back in Harlingen, Texas, a place I had known so well as a child but hadn’t been to in years. When we walked into my grandparents house there was no one there to call me “Coley” or show me the purple ring. It felt empty and sad. I cried some more yet was calmed by the fact that my grandfather seemed to be doing ok. My sister arrived as well as my aunt Rose and uncle Terry.
Later that day, Rose brought my sister and I back into my grandmother’s room where she gently took the jewelry box and placed it on the bed. There was nothing of any real monetary value inside that box yet in my heart there was one thing I couldn’t live without. The purple ring. Would she remember?
Rose delicately dumped the contents onto the bed and we sifted through the pieces. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, hoping no one else would claim it as their own. The purple ring. You always liked that Nicole, Rose said gently. Would you like it? My smile said it all.
At my grandmother’s funeral my uncle Terry gave a eulogy that I will never forget. He talked about my grandmother’s life and how much he loved her. It was a moving speech that brought me to tears. But the part I’ll never forget is his closing line. He was telling the story of being a boy growing up in the fifties and sixties in Minnesota. They were a working class family and although my grandmother had a college degree, something that was extremely rare for a women in her times, she chose to stay home with her three boys and raise them herself. My uncle told the one story that stuck with my heart. Here it is:
“When I walked home from school on a cold winter day and opened the door to the house, there she was. My mother. She had a smile across her face and the smell of cookies infiltrated the house. She would ask me how my day was and say “Come in Terry, the cookies are still warm”.
Those were the words that convinced me it was time to start a family of my own. A few months later I was pregnant with my first child and made a promise to myself that I would be that mother, like both of my grandmothers and my own mother. The mom who was always there waiting for her children, with a smile and an open heart, to bring them up into this world.
Today the purple ring remains in the confines of my jewelry box. I haven’t worn it because I’m afraid of losing it. The prongs are loose and I really should bring it to a jeweler and get it fixed. However, I’m not sure if I’ll do it now. Instead, I want to keep it there inside my heart and someday pass it on to my own daughter Sophia whose bedroom is also painted purple. I hope she loves and treasures it as much as me.
This post was written in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: A few of my favorite things. To read more entries, click here.