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Tess Bademan


Tess BademanInheritance

The top of my dresser is covered with receipts to be filed, socks without mates, and inexpensive jewelry, mostly earrings handmade by my sister. I’m not a jewelry person; I never think about jewelry. Even when I got engaged, all I wanted was a plain gold band.

Also on my dresser, in a square white box, stuffed away inside another a small jewelry case, is a diamond solitaire ring set in white gold: my mother’s wedding ring from 1968. On the rare occasions when I organize and dust my dresser top, I check to make sure the ring is still there in its box, and I sometimes try it on. When I study it on my finger, I have to admit it’s a lovely ring, but I can’t bring myself to wear it.

My nine year-old daughter Elsa, unlike me, loves jewelry. She’s also a girl who loves details, and she notices everything. I was folding laundry in the bedroom one day last week, while Elsa fished through the items on top of my dresser.

“Mama, why did Grandma give you her ring?” She had uncovered the ring box and was staring at the diamond ring. “Can I put it on?”

Without waiting for my answer, she put the ring on her ring finger and held up her little hand to show me. “Are Grandma’s fingers really so small? Look, it almost fits me.” She smiled at me brightly and wiggled her fingers so that the diamond flashed in my direction. I felt a pang of sadness looking at the ring on Elsa’s finger.

“Can you believe that Grandma gave you her diamond? Why don’t you ever wear the ring, Mama?”

“I think I’ve worn it once or twice,” I responded slowly. The ring had been on my mother’s hand for 29 years, and I remembered her wearing it always, when she was driving, folding laundry, reading to me and my sister, washing dishes. Once when I was a child, my mother lost the diamond in the snow outside our house when one of the prongs on the ring came loose. After she and my dad spent hours searching for it in the snow, they improbably found the diamond and eventually had it reset in a sturdier setting. And now it’s mine.

“Is it a big diamond?” Elsa was examining the ring closely. “I bet it cost Grandpa a lot of money when he bought it. Does Grandpa know that you have Grandma’s ring?”

“Well, I think he knows. He’s glad that someone in the family has it, that the ring is still in the family.”

“So why did Grandma give it to you? Aren’t you happy you have her wedding ring?” Now Elsa was staring up at me, watching my face.

How do I answer? I had long wondered what had happened to her wedding ring, after my mom stopped wearing it, after she left my dad. I had thought I would never see it again, imagining that she had sold her ring or even thrown it into the Fox River. I remembered then how surprised I was the day she gave it to me several years after the divorce; the ring was still in its original white box with “Bockman Jewelers, Aurora, Illinois” printed on the satin inside. She was so casual about it: “Do you want this? Your sister got the piano,” she explained. I tried to be casual, too. I didn’t want to cry in front of her.

Elsa was back to admiring the ring on her finger. “Maybe someday I’ll get Grandma’s ring.”

“Well, you know that someday everything we have will be yours and Mary’s.”

She seemed satisfied with my answer her and took her time taking off the ring, putting it back in its box, closing the lid, and putting the box away. The ring, that symbol of what I had lost, again lay in its faded satin lining buried deep on my dresser.