My grandmother loved diamonds.
She loved all jewelry really and had an eye for interesting pieces, especially ones discovered at a tag or estate sale. I don’t think she ever bought a piece retail; haggling a good price made it even more valuable. A queen must have her jewels, even if she has to get them herself.
As she regally stirred the pot of her mouthwatering chicken soup, golden bangles lightly clanked together. When she bent down her perfectly coiffed swirl of red hair to speak with one of us grandkids, chains adorned with diamond pendants swiped past our noses. As she breezily blew on her cigarette, rings of smoke and glimmering gems danced through her manicured fingers.
And the day, decades later, when she rubbed my leg the way she always did in a circular motion that generally ended with a squeeze, her old diamond pinky ring nipped at my skin. “I want you to have this,” she said with great formality, opening a box holding a diamond ring I had never seen before.
“Grandma, I don’t want your things. You keep them,” I said, mesmerized by the shiny bauble that I couldn’t decide was the prettiest or the ugliest thing I had ever seen.
“You can’t take it with you,” She insisted.
My grandmother had been dying for about a decade. Every week she reminded me that her bags were packed and she was ready to kiss her old arse goodbye. For nine of those years, it was more cranky optimism than death that gripped her, but she was 90 now and visibly weakened. I didn’t want to think about that or that she was giving away things that had really mattered to her.
“I can wait,” I said stubbornly.
Her circular rub turned into a pinch. “Ow! Fine.” I took the ring and studied it. It was a flower of tiered diamonds, glamorous and gaudy, an object of another place and time. But who wanted it? I wanted her.
“It’s beautiful!” I exclaimed, “Thank you! I’ll wear it to all the baseball games to blind the players in the field.”
She smacked at me lightly. “It’s an old-fashioned cocktail ring. I got it from two sisters who came to me knowing I had an eye. They had no idea how much it was worth.” Her eyes glinted as she remembered her coup, licking her lips in satisfaction, the same way she did before a bowl of chocolate ice cream or a plate of lobster Cantonese.
The value of the ring mattered little to me. I would never sell it. Nor did I need a fancy diamond to wear at the gym or on a playdate. Things like this weren’t important in my world. I barely even wore my engagement ring. The older I got, the more jewelry just seemed like money better spent in a 529 plan, a new fridge or even a family vacation.
But the value she placed on it mattered. Passing it on to me was like offering a piece of herself. ‘Remember me’ it glimmered; like her deep humor, wit and love somehow needed to be cemented with a stone.
She died not too long after, but that was years ago. Her face now smiles from frames on my shelves, my middle son still cuddles with a frayed stuffed cat she gave to him, and I proudly wear her ring every chance I get, just to keep a little flash of her sparkle in my day.
My grandmother loved diamonds. And I loved my grandmother.