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‘Stubborn little sparrow’: How the ring helped me to torment my mother | Women


At the end of the social media distraction scroll, I stare at my computer, stunned. On my Instagram feed is a perfectly signed ring: atop a gold ring engraved with the symbol of a sparrow perched on a branch looking over its shoulder happily. Its silent satisfaction stirred in me a sense of hope that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I want that ring. I need that ring.

And then I realized it was mine.

The jeweler posted a photo of it on their site almost a year and a half after I designed it and brought it home. Over the next few days, like a teenager, I found myself going back to the post to see how many hearts it had already rated. I feel embarrassedly proud that my little sparrow is healthy.

But between the oohs and ahs, there were people asking to buy it – and the jeweler instructed them to contact the store for a quote. I was surprised. This is my ring. With my design. In honor of my mother. Can the jeweler legally offer her to the world? If so, am I prepared to share my mother?

I have long wanted a ring with a pink accent. They are very British. My parents grew up in London during the Second World War; I have dual citizenship and prefer to be British than American, especially lately.

My mother passed away from thyroid cancer in the late eighties, but her body has endured so much for a long time. Her final decade was tough, though she rarely let go.

After her death, my father, niece and I went to London to sprinkle her ashes on her mother’s grave. While there, I wanted to find a pinky ring for her as a souvenir.

A month before we were due to leave, I searched online for stores we could dive into. I didn’t expect much. But a link popped up and my breath was short. Each ring is handcrafted and carved by master craftsmen who have honed their traditional craft in the old-school way by apprenticeship. Elegant, timeless, substantive jewelry; I can guess the weight of a ring on my hand and know it’s mine.

My mother and I had a tender but complicated relationship. When I was five or six years old, my mother – red lipstick, Chanel No 5, diamond buttons – told me the reason she gave birth to me was so she would never be alone.

“We will always be best friends,” she said firmly as she knelt beside me.

In part, I was delighted: I was her treasure. Partly, even at such a young age, I felt tremendous pressure. How can I shine brightly enough to fill the entire life of this wondrous creature?

“What if I let you down?” My eyes, as my mother used to say, were as big as plates, I wonder.

“Oh, love,” she said, “you can never let me down.”

As I got older, her chorus shifted slightly to, “Isn’t our relationship great? A lot of mothers and daughters don’t have this.”

What we’ve got isn’t clear, but questioning it risks defiling my entire purpose. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how angry this deal made me – as if I needed to get my mom’s attention by giving her attention.

For most of my life, I kept this smoldering anger out of my conscious mind, but now I realize that it affects nearly all of our interactions. Whether hinted at or actually present, I find expectations dwindling. I felt my mother wanted me too much, wanted to be a part of my life in a way that was too intimate for my comfort level, wanted to tell me everything about her life, including her relationship with me. her relationship with my father, that as her daughter, I don’t want to hear.

In my attempt to not succumb to pressure, I did my best to create a force field that created an emotional barrier that would allow me to be the good daughter we both wanted while still maintain its original appearance.

an illustration of a sparrow
[Richard Smith/Al Jazeera]

A visit that summer to jewelers I found online brought me to Leather Lane in Hatton Garden, London’s jewelry district. Narrow and winding, like an alley with the traps of an open-air market, it reminded me of the Lower East Side in the early eighties. My mind wandered back to when my parents visited me there. At that time, people living in cardboard boxes lined the streets. My mother would stop and talk to each of them. She will hold their hand, ask questions about their lives, listen deeply to their answers, then give everyone a goodbye hug. It took forever to get down the street.

The front of the jewelry store was very small then, big enough to swing a cat, as my grandmother used to say. In the back room, I thread rings of different sizes and shapes from the velvet tray onto my fingers. They are even heavier than I imagined. There are few things my mother loves more than jewelry and I feel her there vibrate over my shoulder.

Next, I met the engraver, who had sketched a sparrow from a photograph I carried, his desk piled up with splendidly worn clippers, scrapers and chisels. When I came up with the design, I closed my eyes to connect with my mother and the first thing I saw was a sparrow.

I’m not surprised when I call out a bird, my mother loves them. As far as I can remember she took care of them, the bird feeders in our yard that bloomed from one to three to seven or eight years old, plus a hot bird bath. Their songs and antics amused her.

Every day, one of the feeders needs to be filled and regardless of the weather, she runs outside, shovels the seeds from a large bin in the garage, then hangs them respectfully back in place. glasses. When I lived in Manhattan, she called to tell me what “her” birds were doing, and when I came home to visit, she would coax me to feed them with her.

She has long shared stories about Sally Ann, one of the chickens her family keeps in the back garden, which often comes into the house. My mother loved her. The youngest of nine children, her brothers went to war, her brothers-in-law were taken prisoner, and most of her sisters joined the war effort. There’s Blitz, rations, a father who drinks too much and a mother gritting her teeth trying to keep her family safe. I imagined her as a lonely child, finding solace in Sally Ann’s cheerful strutting gait. No wonder she longs for the reassurance of a best friend.

It took me a few weeks to finish my ring and once I put it on, I never wanted to take it off. I realized that more than a memory, my pain took the form of this little bird. There’s nothing regal or elegant about the chubby little brown feathered avenue that now sits permanently on my fingers.

It’s not the kind of bird that’s usually fond of expensive trinkets – but its friendly, communal personality is true to the spirit of my mother’s, the ethos of New York’s homeless people back in the day. . Spirit has cared for so many others through her volunteer work and simply the way she lives her life. Wherever she went, she “adopted” people: the church, the Kroger store, her manicurist, my neighbors, my friends, even the garage attendant in the garage. a holiday in London, who liked her so much that he bought her a Union Jack bell as a parting gift.

As she got older, her eyesight and hearing deteriorated, so she would stand close, put her hand on their arm, ask all their questions, and crouch so close that her eyelashes were almost fluttered on their cheeks as she listened to their answers. Everyone lit up in her presence.

In many ways, so am I. Boundlessly generous, she’s always ready to treat me to something special that I wouldn’t be able to splurge on myself – whether it’s a warm sweater or a pocket money for a trip. Every Easter in Manhattan, friends flock to my apartment when I open the giant box of chocolate turtles, marshmallows, and homemade pumpkin bread my mom sent me. I can call her at any time of the day or night and usually she is waiting for me; She seemed to intuitively sense important moments in my life.

When she was alive, a lot of her kindness was buried under the grueling bargaining to complete her life. Now I can appreciate the beauty of her love without feeling that she needs my energy to survive. She is just lonely. This tender sparrow has become a reminder that I am a beloved daughter, not just someone’s promised companion.

And now the jewelers want to allow others to have a part of the mother I just grew up to appreciate, a part of my pain. My initial impulse was to send them an email, instructing them that they could not sell my design. But I waited a few days and kept counting the hearts. I also continue to refill my bird feeder according to the routine my mother imprinted. The feeder was the first gift my parents gave me when I left Manhattan to be closer to them – both in their eighties and my mother struggling with health – and bought my first home in Michigan. Wearing my Boggs and J Crew parka, my mother’s version of a Uggs and Burberry duffel shirt, I felt her spirit move within me – we were both most satisfied when the birds were shown. feed and bathe the birds adequately.

In the end, I simply commented on the jewelers’ posts to thank them for their great work. I claim the ring is mine but do not try to prevent others from owning it. Now I imagine my sturdy little sparrow perched on my fingers all over the world and that delights me. Of course, the wearer won’t know any of this – at least not consciously – but my mother will be there anyway, treating each and every one of them as a welcome member of the herd. hers.

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