12: Aunt Jane’s Diamonds

12: Aunt Jane’s Diamonds

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Aunt Jane’s Diamonds

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.

~Confucius, Analects

My son Andy wanted to ask Traci, his girlfriend of several years, to marry him. Problem was he couldn’t afford a ring. Not one nice enough, in his mind, for Traci.

But I had a way to fix that: Aunt Jane’s diamonds. Aunt Jane had passed away only a couple of years earlier, at the ripe old age of ninety-one. She was my favorite aunt, and I was her favorite niece. Because she had no daughter of her own, and she and Uncle Ed were quite well off, Aunt Jane had spoiled me rotten when I was a child. She bought me new clothes at the beginning of each school year. She took me out to eat at nice restaurants. She even helped me with the down payment on my first car.

But that’s not why I was crazy about her. I loved Aunt Jane because she was smart and funny and interesting and kind. And because I knew she loved me.

Uncle Ed had always been a big kidder who loved to laugh and play practical jokes. After he died and their son moved out of state, Aunt Jane was terribly lonely. I made it a point to visit her as often as I could, even though she lived more than a hundred miles away. We’d sit together sipping iced tea and talking for hours on end. As is often the case when people grow older, Aunt Jane spent a great deal of time fretting over what would happen to “her things” when her time came. She was certain that her son would not be interested in some of the treasures she held closest to her heart.

One afternoon while I was visiting, Aunt Jane insisted on showing me the contents of her jewelry drawer. She took out some beautiful pieces, many of which I’d seen her wear over the years. A pearl necklace. A sapphire ring. An elegant gold watch.

For every item of jewelry there was a story, often centering on when, where, and why Uncle Ed had given it to her.

The last thing she removed from the jewelry drawer was a small, velvet box. Face glowing, she handed it to me. “Open it, Julie,” she said. Inside was a dazzling pair of diamond earrings. “Ed gave these to me on our fortieth wedding anniversary.” She dabbed at her eyes. “I want you to have them.”

“Oh, no, Aunt Jane,” I stammered. “They’re gorgeous. But I can’t accept them. Why, I bet you still have occasion to wear these yourself.”

“Nonsense! I don’t need diamond earrings to watch silly game shows on TV. Nothing would make me happier than thinking about you wearing these diamonds to some of those fancy parties you go to!”

It was obvious that arguing would do no good. Telling Aunt Jane that I seldom went to fancy parties, or that wearing such huge diamonds would make me nervous about losing them, or that perhaps her daughter-in-law would like to have the earrings, clearly wasn’t going to change her mind.

And so I drove home that afternoon, dressed in sneakers and blue jeans, with a dazzling pair of diamond studs adorning my ears.

On that drive home, I had an idea. A brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. My two grown sons had jobs they loved, but which didn’t pay much. Both had serious girlfriends. I would lock Aunt Jane’s earrings in my safety deposit box at the bank and give one to John and one to Andy if and when they needed a diamond for an engagement ring.

Not long after Aunt Jane died, Andy decided to propose to Traci. So I told him the story of the earrings and took him to the bank to get one. “Holy smokes!” he said when I opened the velvet box. “These things must weigh a carat apiece. Are you sure you want to do this, Mom?”

I nodded. “Nothing would make me — or Aunt Jane — happier.”

So Andy took his diamond to a jeweler to have it set in an engagement ring. He discovered that he was right — the stone weighed in at .93 carats. But he found out something else, too. It was a fake. All those years ago, Uncle Ed had given Aunt Jane a pair of cubic zirconia earrings and passed them off as diamonds. And for all the years since, Aunt Jane had worn them with pride and then proudly handed them down to me.

I could only imagine Uncle Ed laughing uproariously from his grave at the great practical joke he had pulled on us all.

Andy didn’t have the cubic zirconia set in an engagement ring. Figuring that one practical joke was enough, he bought a small but lovely genuine diamond for Traci. She was thrilled with the ring and even more thrilled about the marriage proposal. As for me, I moved Aunt Jane’s earrings from the safety deposit box to my own jewelry drawer at home.

I wore them proudly to Andy and Traci’s wedding where, I’m certain, Aunt Jane was smiling down on all of us.

~Julie Burns

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