I looked everywhere, but I could not find my great-grandmother’s wedding ring. Sentimentality skates dangerously close to hoarding, too close for me to get overly involved with ‘things,’ but this was different. This is part of who I am.
It’s a little sad that I don’t know more about these people, but they are my forbears, part of the genetic pool from which I sprang upon an unsuspecting world.
Louisa (called ‘Loo-eye-zer’) Deaton is my mother’s father’s mother. Say that three times real fast. She had eight children, a conservative number for turn-of-the-century Arkansas. You know you come from the impoverished, rural South when all the old family pictures are of frowning people standing in a dirt yard. Compared to the people in the rest of my old picture collection, these two actually look uptown. I guess they were headed to church–or a funeral.
The realization hit me, something like a year ago, that I hadn’t seen the ring in a while. I was sure I had put it in an old, old jewelry box. I have two of them. Again, the history on these two objects is a mystery to me, as well.
I know, I KNOW I emptied BOTH jewelry boxes, went through old bags and purses, and anything else that might hold my little treasures, but nada. I grieved in my heart and moved on.
Look at them, the ghosts of country people past; look how disgusted and disappointed they are:
Nah, they looked like that, anyway. Hey! I see some grass, there.
You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friends’ noses. No, that’s not how it goes. Wait, okay, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your family, hang on, you can’t pick your family . . .
What I’m trying to say is, your family is your family. Love ’em or leave ’em, they’re a part of you, whether you like it, or not. Maybe they embarrass you. Maybe they don’t like you, very much. Maybe they wear white shoes and go freestyle. If you don’t love those people, you stand a giant chance of wandering around for the rest of your life, trying to figure out who you are. To me, that’s a lot of time wasted, time that could be spent loving and living and learning and giving. I made a little rhyme.
Of course, these people were long gone before I was even born, but I have pieces of them: keepsakes, stories, pictures, and DNA.
Two nights ago, I remembered the lost ring, so I thought I would look one more time. Guess what?
I don’t know how I overlooked it, but it was right there in that jewelry box, all along. Go figure. It’s a beat up little number, a poor woman’s ring, but it means the world to me. It’s thin and worn and misshapen from plowing, sewing, scrubbing, and raising eight children on practically nothing. It was a part of her, and she is a part of me. Sure, it’s just a ‘thing,’ but it connects me to who I am, and where I came from. I’m an American writer, straight from the dirt-yard, white-shoes, no-bra-wearing South.
Who are you?