The ring circle of life


Verandah Magazine publisher Candida Baker has a nostalgic moment for a a rare piece of jewellery – one she’s actually managed to keep…

I can still remember when and where I bought my favourite piece of jewellery, a large amethyst and silver ring I’ve worn for almost three decades.

It was a freezing cold winter’s day in Sydney 25 years ago, and I had my then-four-month-old son in a backpack. We were living in a terrace house in Paddington, not far from Oxford Street, and even though the day was bleak, with a howling southerly, I felt the need to escape, and so I’d rugged us both up, him in a padded blue jumpsuit and a bobble hat, so that he looked a cross between a tiny Michelin man and an east-German refugee.

As we walked up to Oxford Street, the shops seemed suddenly to be places of immense cheer. I stopped and looked in all the windows, inhaling the idea that the world at large was still going about its business even if I was exhausted and preoccupied with nappies – and naps.

We passed a smart clothing store, the kind I frequented often before getting pregnant, and even if I too was rugged up in utilitarian jeans and jumper, I thought it would be a nice idea to walk in, to gently wave my hand through rows of dresses, perhaps even to try something on and see if my figure had fully returned.

The pencil-thin shop assistant, black dress, blonde hair, smart shoes, looked me up and down.

“Can I help you,” she said, and not even the slightest smile lit the corners of her mouth.

“That’s ok,” I said breezily, “I’m just browsing – I might try a few things on.”

She nodded slowly as if trying to suggest that she totally disapproved of the idea, whilst not wanting to actually lose a sale.

My son was burbling cheerfully in his backpack, and I put him on the ground so that I could better look at the rows of elegantly unsuitable post-baby clothes while the Pencil looked at him as if he was some alien piece of lifeform.

For some absurd reason I decided to try on some of the soft, figure-hugging dresses, an the Pencil held them at some length from her body, as she carried them into the change room for me, where I discovered that a size 10 wasn’t going to cut it – not even close and asking the Pencil to get a size 12 for me, I caught a sudden look of myself in the full-length mirror.

The maternity bra, the op-shop jeans, the thick winter socks were all off-set beautifully by a pair of men’s underpants, which I’d discovered when I was heavily pregnant were much more comfortable than women’s nether garments.

Baby bumps, and even worse, babies, not allowed in here...

Baby bumps, and even worse, babies, not allowed in here…

“I’ve changed my mind,” I called out of the curtain into the brightly lit wood panelled room, and scrambling into my clothes, hefting Sam back onto my back, I dashed out of that shop like a frightened rabbit. As I walked up the street, I could almost have shed a tear or two – for my old self, my figure, my past lack of baby accessory. We passed a jeweller’s shop with a closing down sale, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to spend some money, a piece of jewellery might be a safer bet than an item of clothing right about now, and as I turned to look in the window, I saw this chunk of amethyst in a simple silver setting, gleaming at me.

Now, I’ve always loved amethyst – apparently its protective powers are particularly potent for journalists and drunks, I’d once read, and although due to the amount of drunks in my family I wasn’t a drinker myself, I was certainly a journalist, and anyway, purple has always been, along with green, my favourite colour.

It was reduced from $180 to $30, a bargain if ever there was one, and I was quickly and happily the owner of my fine new ring.

As we walked home, Sam put ice-cold tiny fingers down my collar, and I shivered and laughed, and as I laughed so did he, and so we made our way home, laughing and skipping down the street.

Now, in the intervening 24 years, I have lost a lot of things, precious jewellery from my ex-husband, the father of my two children, jewellery from loved ones and family – alive and gone – and yet somehow despite my valiant attempts to lose it, my beautiful ring survives.

Over the years it’s become a talisman. I don’t wear it when I’m out with the horses, it’s too big, a bit of a knuckle-duster really; I try to remember not to wear it to the beach, although I’m not always successful; I always wear it when I go out.

I’m not a kind owner of objects. My optometrist once said to me, “What on earth do you do with your glasses? Slice bread with them?”   I lose things, and I’m clumsy, and the ring has lost some of its lustre, but it has seen me through so much – almost 25 years of experience.   It has seen me through the end of my thirties, my forties, my fifties and the second year, so far, of my sixties. It has become important to me, and when I’d owned it for a decade or so, I suddenly realised how my mother must have felt when my careless teenage self persuaded her into letting me wear one of her most precious rings, an oval garnet in a silver filigree setting, and I took it off in a train toilet to wash my hands and forgot to put it back on again. At the time, in my teenage solipsism I thought she over-reacted, but now that my own sixteen-year-old ransacks my belongings, I know how she felt.

My ring, I’ve told my daughter, is sacrosanct. Not to be borrowed under any circumstances, and I hope she will take more notice of me than I did of my mother. (Yeah right, being an appropriate reader response just here!)

So the ring survives the trials and tribulations of my daily on-going life. I bought it for myself, and it’s stayed with me as I’ve evolved, and one positive of getting older is that of all the things I know, with or without my much-loved ring, I wouldn’t give a stuff what the Pencil thought of me today, or any other day for that matter.




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