A Circuitous Journey
Whatever is yours will always come to you. There is one event in my life that not only convinced me this is true but also impressed upon me the truism in the saying that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. That which is yours will always find you, however circuitous the journey.
Many years ago, I watched my mother open her jewelry box. None of the earrings and necklaces interested me except a lone amethyst ring that stood out among the rest. For some strange reason, I was fascinated by it. I felt drawn to it as if it was meant for me.
“Can you give me that ring?” I asked my mother, as she removed it from the box and held it before me. Its deep purple gleaned in the mid-afternoon sunlight. She seemed to have read my mind.
“This belongs to your grandmother,” she said. “It is her birthstone.”
I asked her if she inherited a lot of jewelry from grandma, but she told me that her elder siblings had already divided them among the heirs, and she was left with this one ring and a couple of necklaces and earrings. “This ring,” she said, “is very precious. It is many centuries old. Your grandmother inherited it from her ancestors in Toledo, Spain.” Mother then told me how this amethyst stone was first used as part of a royal crown before it was transferred into a ring and passed on to the next generations of Villenas until it reached her.
Mother then spent the rest of the afternoon telling me of the ancient lineage of the Villenas (grandmother’s maiden family name) of 16th century Spain and their accredited nobility for having actively participated in the battle of the Reconquista in Andalucía.
“I want that ring.”
“It is very precious, but I will eventually give it to you if you promise to treasure it as much as I treasure it.” “I promise.”
“Very well, then. I will give it to you when you grow up and get engaged or get married. That’s a promise.” I never saw that ring again. Years went by, when one day, when we were no longer living with our mother, an unfortunate incident involving family issues happened. A relative demanding his “inheritance” ransacked the house and ferried out everything including most of mother’s jewelry, cash, and other prized possessions. Because of the incident she was forced to stay in her only daughter’s house so that she could temporarily keep herself safe.
A while ago tonight, I saw my wife deeply absorbed scribbling in her notebook -- and then pausing for a long time.
“Are you okay?” I asked her.
“I can’t finish,” she said, holding back her tears.
“It is about Marilou,” I said gravely.
“Yes,” she said. “I miss her.”
“I know. We have no more sister to come home to in Naga.”
“Her passing three days ago leaves me heartbroken.”
“Here, let me help you finish that.”
At this point my wife Delia gently handed over to me a draft letter she was writing in her notebook. She wanted me to check her unfinished letter which she wished to be mentioned at my sister’s eulogy on her funeral three days from now.
“She gave you an amethyst ring? I asked surprised, as I browsed through her notes. “You never mentioned that to me.”
“An amethyst ring. Do you want to see it?”
A few years ago my only sister Marilou whom I have not seen for many years, came to visit us in NY. She stayed with us for a couple of months and it was a great opportunity for us to bond with her.
Marilou had always wished she had a sister. She was the only girl among 6 siblings. And she found this in Delia. They not only found a common likeness for “women” things but she found in her those traits that she wanted in a sister. My wife and I tried to convince her to stay with us in NY permanently, but her family way back in Naga prodded her to return home.
The night before she left, she gave my wife an amethyst ring.
“I cannot accept that ring. That’s yours.”
“Please accept it. This is the only token of gratitude I can give you for my delightful stay in your home. You made me very happy during my stay here and I thank you for all the little gifts here and there that you kept on giving me.”
Delia refused several times but Marilou insisted and insisted until my wife gave in. In return my wife gave her a Bible.
“Would you like to see the ring?” my wife asked me again.
My wife has this practice of keeping a record of the birthdays of all her relatives and close friends. As she handed the ring to me she wondered aloud why Marilou had an amethyst ring when Marilou’s birth month was January, a garnet.
“Would I like to see it!” I said.
It was a dead ringer for the ring my mother showed me--or was this the same ring promised to me years ago? But how did it get to my sister?
The first thing I did was to find out grandmother’s birth month: she was born February 20, 1889, an amethyst. My wife’s is February 21, also an amethyst.
I wanted to investigate deeper so I tried to contact my reclusive brother Caloy to ask him if he was familiar with an amethyst ring that our grandmother owned. In one of those rare instances, he finally replied to my repeated emails. He asked me to send him a photo of the ring through my iphone.
“That’s grandma’s ring,” he wrote back, “because grandma always made a clinking sound with it each time her ring finger touched the glass of milk she’d prepare for us.”
A flurry of questions entered my mind. Did Marilou give the ring to Delia because Delia loved the color purple? Did she find out that Delia’s birth month was February? Why did she carry that ring with her but never wore it? Did she give that out of gratitude?
But the biggest question entered my mind: How can my grandmother give an amethyst ring to Marilou when grandmother died when Marilou was only six years old?
“The plot thickens,” I told my wife in half-jest.
Delia suggested we check out Marilou’s only daughter Francie if she or any of her daughters’ birthdays fell on February. Negative. None was born on that month.
I started to think back. In her old age, Mother lived with her two other children, in Daet and in Manila, respectively. But in her later years she came back to Naga to live with Marilou. I was sure she must have given the ring to Marilou out of gratitude for keeping safe whatever was left of her belongings, which included the ring, and for taking care of her in her old age. Furthermore, although Marilou’s birthstone was not amethyst, her favorite color was purple. Did Marilou ask for the ring or did Mother give it to her as a souvenir for being grandma’s favorite grandchild? How did the ring get to Marilou?
Here’s a possible scenario: After the ransack incident, while packing up and trying to retrieve whatever was left in the house, mother saw a piece of jewelry along with a few coins wedged in a cracked wooden cabinet door where she always kept her jewelry box. It turned out to be the amethyst ring. This may have prodded her to ask her daughter Marilou to hide it and everything that was left of her possessions.
It’s a wild hypothesis that for all intents and purposes could might as well be way off track.
Marilou has moved on to the other life, so I’ll never know the real backstory. What if she did not give the ring to Delia? Because nobody else knew about it, it would have died with her forever. What if my wife did not ask me to help her finish the eulogy for my sister? I would not have known anything about it at all. But the fact remains that the ring found me and came to me, as promised.
“I am positive that this is the ring I asked from my mother.”
“She promised it to you and it was given to me, the woman you got married to.”
It is late in the night and I still lie awake in bed.
I hold the ring in front of me. I examine its shield-like aura under the lamplight. It is just a ring, I say to myself, and may not seem to be of much importance. But it has seen many a battle, witnessed the tragedies and comedies in this huge stage we call life, observed with a cold eye the triumphs and defeats of people in love and in hate, the saints and the sinners across the centuries, across the seas--a lonely stone witness of human flaws, of earth-born mortals like me filled with illusory self importance in our ephemeral privileged positions, and the stupid wars we wage against each other.
It is a humbling experience to hold this ring and think of the foolishness of our human vanities and the violence we inflict upon one another, as it teaches me the lesson to deal more kindly with one another. It is just a ring, I repeat to myself.
“What do you plan to do with it?” I ask my wife.
“Your mother passed it on to you, and it came to you, as promised,” she said. “With God’s grace I pray that the ring will find its way to the right woman that my son marries.”
No assurance could be better than this, for I know, as sleep starts rising in my brain, that the ring will continue its circuitous journey.