I recently lost one of my favorite rings. A "mothers ring," it was called: a band of studded white gold with a small, peridot gemstone in the setting. The peridot is the birthstone for August, the month that my son was born. I wore it on my right hand every single day for the last 17 years, along with a second, identical ring, except for the aquamarine gemstone in the setting, which is the birthstone for March, the month that my daughter was born.
The rings were handmade by a jeweler in Texas when my children were very young. I cherished those bands of gold and I loved how they looked on my hand. I wore them as a celebration of my children and of motherhood. And then one day this spring, I looked down at my hand, and the peridot ring was gone. It had slipped off of my finger without me even noticing. It was a strange thing to happen after all of these years. The ring had remained snug and safe on my hand through all of the rough and tumble years of childrearing, and then as if on cue, it quietly slipped away. For a while, I continued to wear just the one ring, my daughter's birthstone, but it didn't feel or look right without the peridot by its side.
"Maybe it's a sign," my son said to me with a grin. He knew that his old mom had been working hard at letting go. He knew that I had been preparing myself for the empty nest, which will be here in three short weeks, when he goes away to college. He understood, at least in some vague way, that I have been reclaiming parts of myself, pieces that went underground during the intense mothering years. Years when I needed to focus most of my energies on raising him and his sister; years when I had to put aside some of my own creativity, ambitions, wants and needs. I guess its called sacrifice. It's what we do for our kids and it is good. It has meaning and it takes us out of our own small selves.
I was devastated by the loss of the ring. I tracked down the jewelers in Texas and asked them if they could make me another one. I even sent them a photo of the ring that I still have, my daughter's birthstone, so that they could match the two, just like they did when my kids were small.
But then, I discovered an old ring in the back of my jewelry drawer: a band of yellow gold with a beautiful diamond-shaped garnet in the setting. The garnet is the birthstone for January, the month that I was born. My mother gave it to me when I was in my 20s, before I had children, before I was a mother. I had forgotten about it. I had even just about forgotten that the garnet is my birthstone or that I even have a birthstone.
A few days after I found the garnet my husband asked, "So, did you get in touch with the jewelers in Texas?"
"Yeah," I sighed.
He waited for me to continue, and when I didn't, he probed further. "Well, are you gonna order the mothers ring?"
"Nah, I don't think so." I told him.
I let a few minutes pass, for dramatic effect. And then I said, "I'm really liking the look of this garnet on my hand." I held my right hand out for him to see. "I think I found it for a reason. I think it's here to remind me of something. I think it is reminding me of me."
My husband is used to me talking like this, so he kindly smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
I plan on wearing my garnet next week when we drop our son off at college. And I will raise my ring high into the air as I wave goodbye to him. And though I know that I will feel sad, I will also know that it is now time for me. It is now time to wear my own birthstone. It is now time to celebrate my own self and to cherish these years of freedom that I will have with my husband in our empty nest.
Until, of course, it is time for a grandmothers ring.