Ringing In An Emotional Lesson

This newly-found heirloom is now in safekeeping in more ways than one. Jane Esaki photo

This newly-found heirloom is now in safekeeping in more ways than one. Jane Esaki photo

Most of the rings were large, semi-precious amethyst and topaz gems nestled in rudimentary Brazilian settings that my mother had collected over the years and had passed on to me.

They dwarfed my petite fingers, and the styles did not complement me, so I rarely wore them. Nevertheless, the pieces traveled with me wherever I moved over the past decades, and I knew the colorful, tactile treasure trove was always there for me to play with.

Then one day, in Mom’s usual dispassionate calm, she asked me to choose from whatever rings she had remaining of her stash. In an equally detached manner, I thanked her and picked a medium-sized oval topaz that was tastefully set on a golden crown. It was perfect, since the gem also was my daughter’s birthstone and it felt comfortable on my finger. In fact, it was so suitable that I chose to wear it on a subsequent off-island trip.

Later that year, my mom’s house and my house were both burglarized — hers twice and mine once. All of our jewelry was stolen. Gone forever. Talk about shades of Brazil. We’ve since doubled up on security, though it doesn’t matter now because we both have absolutely nothing left to steal.

The stolen jewelry wasn’t worth that much if pawned, and no one got hurt, so the practical side of my mom and me did not feel a tremendous loss. The sentimental side? In typical “shikata ga nai” Japanese fashion, meaning “it can’t be helped,” Mom refused to have her heart also ripped out, and so she stoically resigned herself to our misfortune. I, meanwhile, had yet to fathom the depths of any sentimentalism.

For the next couple years, I occasionally questioned my lack of extreme emotional distress from the loss. In life, it seems that we do not feel a great loss for something that we didn’t fully appreciate. Was I an ungrateful daughter? I chocked up my indifference to being non-materialistic.

Then the other day, after returning from a short trip, I finally decided to clean out the front compartment of my carry-on suitcase. The handy pocket stores miscellaneous items that are usually left in there for the next trip. In it were a ball cap, wet wipes, a triangle-folded plastic bag, and some other personal items.

As I sorted through them, I noticed a shiny golden arc sticking out of a folded plastic bag. It’s one of those gilded trinkets I occasionally find whose parts might be used to repair broken jewelry, I thought. The other end of the circle was stuck tightly in the fold . When I pulled it out, there it was in its complete glory — the beautiful topaz ring worn on my trip two years ago!

I was thrilled beyond belief. It felt like I was being gifted again, only this time, I was not so aloof in my gratitude. As I held it, a warm rush unexpectedly pervaded my being, perhaps like a spirit returning to a body or like a baby returning to a mother’s bosom. Time passed had made me realize how much I missed looking into my jewelry boxes, touching and holding the pieces, appreciating them for what they really were — symbols of Mom’s enduring love.

Until underestimated valuables are ripped away, the depths of sentimentality are not so obvious.

Second chances, if we get lucky, can allow for deeper appreciation and kinship with the heart.

I got lucky.