Baby Ring

Cleaning out a box last night I found my father’s baby ring. How stunning that this little treasure has survived thus far, given not only the fact that my father was born in the ‘30s, but that he traveled some bumpy roads, so to speak. How remarkable that this treasure exists at all, given that my Dutch immigrant grandma Lulu and her Irish Immigrant husband Andy both worked at the cigarette factory- how did they even afford such a thing? What made them decide to purchase a ring for their only son? Perhaps they knew a jeweler and got a discount? Was it a gift from a close friend? I will have to wonder forever..
His initials are there- WSA for William Sterret Anderson. The ring is all wonky and misshapen, like it has been stepped on or smashed in a door jam and someone tried to pull it back to a slightly circular shape, but did so gingerly so as not to snap the thin band. But Grandma Lulu is gone, as is Andy, whom I never met. Now there is my baby Lulu, who is every bit as sweet as her great grandma, though they sadly never met either.  Yet, here is the ring. With no one left to tell the stories, how I wish it could open it up its little oddly shaped mouth and fill me in on all that I missed, so that I could tell my children about the characters that came before them.
The Badger discovered the ring on my bedside table tonight after I read his bedtime stories. He was delighted to find that it actually fit his little chubby fingers, and listened with rapt attention when I told him who the ring belonged to.

How strange and magical that the little band had once fit the tender sweet baby fingers of my father, so, so long ago. How bizarre that those fingers gripped chisels as he carved wood, twisted the throttle of his motorcycle as he sped towards Mexico from Philadelphia, held my mother’s hand as they fell in love, lifted and carried my brother from the car after one of his many surgeries, cradled my newborn head when I cried… and now those fingers are dust, and the quirky man that owned and operated them for 76 years now occupies a confused space in back of my mind, and lives on in the funny stories that Greg and I tell our children. Not every child has a grandfather who was part fantastical fictional creature, part almost-but-not-at-all-famous artist, part wannabe shaman, so we dole out the little wacky memories sparingly, perhaps to keep the mystery intact, perhaps to protect them a bit.
My youngest child stared at the ring on his finger as he shifted his hand in the light, watching the swirling initials glint and shine. I sat with him and quietly watched, wondering about the little thoughts that were sparkling in his mind. From the silence he asked,
“Is your heart singing, mommy?”

Yes, my heart sings out pleadingly to slow mortality down, just for a moment!
Yes, my heart sings loudly and beautifully for the dazzling moments of love that I feel for my children that blow open the chambers of heart, and how being their mother pushes me to constantly strive to be not just a good mom, but damn good mom.

My heart sings a confused song, because the most important lessons I learned from my father were about the kind of parent I didn’t want to be.