32: A Tradition in the Waiting

32: A Tradition in the Waiting

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

A Tradition in the Waiting

The art of giving presents is to give something which others cannot buy for themselves.

~A.A. Milne

Tucked snugly in Gram’s bed, I watched Sunday morning dawn. I loved the way the light sidled in around her vinyl shades to dance with the weightless dust that floated in its path before falling, silently, upon Grandma’s braided rug. I could smell fried bologna and eggs and knew Gram would soon collect me for breakfast.

I crawled out of the bed to explore.

Across the room stood her dresser whose drawers, I knew, were full of cosmetics and perfumes and a jar of cold cream all mingling into the fragrant scent of Gram. But my attention focused on the unassuming jewelry box perched on top. Standing on tiptoe, I lifted it to the floor and knelt before it.

As quietly as my clumsy young hands would allow, I slid the top off the box and worked my way through all the things I deemed less valuable: bangles and baubles; costume jewelry; an old photo of a much younger Pop on his Harley.... And then I found it — the small blue box that seemed to call to me on my Sunday morning visits.

Despite its lackluster plastic facade, it contained the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. Reverently, I took the delicate circle from its nest of blue velour and slid it on my finger. Turning my hand this way and that, I admired its sparkle and pretended I was a bride.

I counted the small, crudely cut diamonds surrounding the large solitaire. Eight little ones circled one big one. Nine diamonds that looked just like a crystal flower. My young eyes didn’t recognize the handcrafted workmanship. They didn’t appreciate the intricate filigree of the band. But I saw it was worn and very old, and I could almost hear it whisper romantic stories from the past.

Gram found me gazing dreamily into her large mirror.

To my surprise, she didn’t scold. Instead, she gathered me back to her bed.

“Sweetheart,” she explained, “your grandfather gave me this ring as an engagement gift.”

My eyes grew big. I knew it had a story. Listening intently as Gram continued, I reveled in the rosy glow of yesteryear.

“It was a tradition in his family for generations. A father would pass this ring to his eldest son when he decided to marry. And he, in turn, would pass it to his firstborn son.”

From son to eldest son. Wow. I knew the ring represented the past — our family’s past. It connected me backward through time to my ancestry and heritage. It told me something of who I was and who we were.

But Gram wasn’t finished.

“...However, your uncle seems quite content to remain a bachelor. So, I’ll make a deal with you.” She leaned closer and whispered, “If he’s still single by the time you get married, the ring is yours.”

Mine!

“Now if you don’t mind,” she slipped the ring off my finger and back into its soft nest, “the eggs are getting cold.”

Thirteen years passed.

At last, and never having forgotten Gram’s promise, I was ready to announce my own engagement. Although my uncle remained single, it felt strange to ask for the heirloom ring. But Gram saw that I didn’t have to.

As she hugged me in congratulation, Gram pressed the well-remembered box into my hand and smiled.

“Now you don’t have to make believe.”

~Lorraine Cheeka
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul

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