When my grandmother died, January 1st, 1985, she left behind many who loved her. She also left behind treasures from her life and her past. Widowed young, her father remarried, and my grandmother’s stepmother became her mother. By extension, she was my mom’s grandmother, who was as beloved as a blood relative.
When my great-grandmother died, the diamond from her engagement ring went to my grandmother, who had it made into a pendant. The style, back then, was to take a single diamond, have it encased in a jacket of gold, and made into a pendant. When my grandmother died, that pendant went to my sister. In the Jewish religion, we are named for those who have gone before us, and my sister’s middle name is for the treasured grandmother my mom wished to honor.
When my mom gave that necklace to my sister, I was told I was going to get something special too.
That was not a concern of mine. I am not a materialistic person, nor did I keep score. However, my mother previewed what “special” meant, and it was a deeply moving gift.
She told me, just prior to my birthday that year (six months after my grandmother’s death), that my grandfather planned to give me my grandmother’s engagement ring. They were not rich, not by any stretch of the imagination, and in 1933, it was not even feasible to live beyond one’s means. Yet my grandfather gave my grandmother a beautiful ring, with a center diamond, and baguettes in a unique platinum setting.
We went out for dinner for my birthday. My grandfather’s favorite Szechuan restaurant. During the meal, which was lovely, I was preparing myself for the emotional onslaught that would accompany what I knew he was going to tell me.
Zaida Max (“Zaida” is the Jewish word for “grandfather”) had a flair for the dramatic. He gave me a gorgeous card, telling me how proud of me he was, and how much I was loved. There was nothing in the card about the ring, though.
After I finished reading it, already teary-eyed, I thanked him. He then said, “this is a gift to you, from your Bubbie (“grandmother”) Anne and me.”
From the pocket of his jacket, he removed his left hand, and the ring was sitting on his pinky finger. (I did mention his flair for the dramatic, right?) I know I caught my breath aloud. It was beautiful. He had polished it, and the light caught it just so.
I got up from my seat, hugged and kissed him, and we shed tears together. He told me to have a jeweller do something pretty so I could wear it around my neck.
In those days, the jeweller to go to was Nudelman’s. My mom took me to the store, and we showed the jeweller the ring. My mom told them to do something special, and we left it in their hands. Prior to going, she and I discussed using the gold chain I had received in Israel. The trip had been exhilarating and both my grandparents had been on it with us. Bubbie Anne had been a real trouper, struggling with walking but still able to enjoy every minute.
I left the chain, and the ring, and was told I would get a call when it was ready.
I received the call personally, a few weeks later, and went to pick up this piece. I assumed they would do the same thing that had been done with my great-grandmother’s diamond. I walked into the store, and toward the jeweller. As I passed a desk, I glanced at the black velvet-covered display board on it. There was a lovely piece of jewelry displayed, and I looked for a moment longer. The jeweller said, “it’s beautiful, isn’t it.”
I said, “it’s stunning.”
She said, “it’s yours.”
That’s when I looked more closely. “Stunning” does not describe it. They had taken the ring, clipped the band off at the ends where the setting began, maintaining the entire setting. That was then mounted on a thick oval of gold, and suspended between the now-cut chain I had provided.
I was in awe. I put it on, and when I got home, my mom and I cried together. She told me not to save it for a “special occasion.”
“Wear it every day,” she told me. “Enjoy it.”
I did enjoy it, and I got comments wherever I went.
I had been wearing it for my wedding in 1990, but the photographer advised me to remove it. The dress, she said, spoke for itself and the neckline needed no other ornamentation. So I did not have it on in my wedding photos.
I did wear it to a special occasion some years later: my oldest nephew’s bar-mitzvah. I wore it there, and after that evening, I could not find the pendant.
I searched my entire house that week. I searched my jewelry box, my drawers, the bag I had used for my clothes when I went to the bar-mitzvah, and I did not find it.
My devastation was keen. I told nobody. I didn’t want to hear the accusations of having been careless with such a special piece of jewelry.
But I never stopped looking.
And I never found it.
At the beginning of this week, in my den relaxing, my husband walked into the den. He held out his hand and there, in his palm, with the ends of the chain threaded and hanging down from his fingers, was my pendant.
I sat up so straight, in utter disbelief. Though he had said nothing, the first thing out of my mouth was, “what are you talking about??” I felt tears threaten, then spill.
We have a wedding this weekend. Our nephew (his sister’s son) is getting married in a black-tie-optional event, and my husband decided to take out the tuxedo he’d had made for our wedding. There, in the pocket, was my necklace.
The questions I had were tumbling through my brain. Why was it there? When was it put there? How did it get there?
He withdrew, from the same pocket, a kippa (yarmulke – the skull cap men wear to synagogue). Inside, the printing from my nephew’s bar mitzvah revealed the last time the tuxedo had been worn: March 29, 1997.
And then it all came back to me.
On that date, my younger son was a little over three months old. I was still nursing him. We left him at my parents’ house, with a sitter, because that house was closer to the synagogue than ours is. That meant picking up the sitter (the baby nurse who had taken care of Sam when he was first born), getting to my parents’ house, and changing clothes there.
The idea had been that I would leave to nurse the baby in the middle of the evening if I so wished (or needed). However, I lasted the whole evening, and the baby had bottles with the nurse.
By the end of the evening, when I arrived back at my parents’ house, I was long past due to feed the baby. Anyone who has ever nursed a child knows the discomfort that ensues from going too long. But the baby was sleeping, having had his bottle not too long before, and I couldn’t feed him. I remember telling my husband we had to get home ASAP, because I had to express the milk as soon as we got home.
I changed into more comfortable clothing, and we left. Somehow, the pendant got into the tuxedo pocket; I cannot remember that part of the story, but it’s possible I just shed myself of everything that was “fancy” so I could come home and take care of what was needed.
You can imagine how in-awe I am of having been reunited with this incredible piece. After 22 years and five months, it is back around my neck.
It made me think about the things that happen in our lives; some for a reason, and some for reasons we will never know.
My in-law family, the family of the bride, my friends and immediate family have all been stunned by this story. The bride’s mother got an ear-to-ear smile when I told her at a pre-wedding event just yesterday.
“Michael and Michelle getting married is having a beautiful effect in so many ways,” she said, echoing exactly what I had been thinking.
My Bubbie Anne would have called it bashert.That is a Yiddish word that loosely translates to “meant to be,” or “destiny.” Many people use it to describe their soulmate. But Bubbie taught us, young, that it can apply to anything.
I feel her, my Zaida Max, and my mom, all smiling with the bashert of this story.
And what was never lost is once again found.