Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Family Ring

My grandparents were married around 1921, and the ring my grandfather had made for my grandmother was a beautiful Trinity ring of three intertwined circles, one of old gold (signifying love), one yellow gold (friendship), and one white gold (loyalty).   I well remember my grandmother wearing it when I was a child, and after she died in 1956, my mother put it on and said she would never take it off.   She often said that I would wear it one day, and I always thought, yuck, an old dead lady ring, no way!  Well, she never did take it off, and after she died at eighty-eight, the funeral director retrieved it and gave it to me in an envelope.  I briefly felt that old distaste, put it in my purse and flew home. Then, a few days later, I polished it nicely, and slipped it on my hand to see how it would look and feel.   To my surprise, it was not only a perfect fit, but it looked beautiful, and somehow felt right.  I had put it over my very slim wedding ring, and showed it to Peter, saying that I thought I would wear it. He's the least sentimental of men, but he looked unhappy, and asked anxiously, "But - that doesn't mean you're going to take off mine?" I immediately said no, of course not! When I wore it (which wouldn't be every day) I'd wear it on my other hand!

My grandparents, Maurice and Naomi Finkelstein.

On shipboard, on the way to their honeymoon in Europe, 1921.  (She must have been wearing the ring!)  He became a law professor, and she was a teacher and president of Women's American O.R.T., working with Jewish refugees in the years after the war.

I realized then that whatever the ring had meant in the past - a symbol of my grandparents' devoted marriage (which showed me that such a thing was possible and therefore led directly to my own); or a symbol of my mother's loss and memory of her own mother - it had now taken on a new meaning.  The symbolism that the Trinity now assumed, was that it represented and joined the three women who had worn it, and would wear it:   My grandmother, my mother, and me.

The three who wore the ring, my grandmother, my mother, and me, 1956.

This picture was taken only weeks before my grandmother's death.  She was only 58, but suffered all her life from rheumatic heart disease she had as a child, now preventable with antibiotics.

I told my teenage cousin Joanna that she could wear the ring when she got married one day if she liked, but she made that teenage face of disgust and said, "It's too big for me," just as I once might have done. Never mind. It may be that she will grow into it.   As I did.

 My grandfather, as I remember him.
On Cape Cod, early 1950s.

A four-generation picture, around 1948. 

My great-grandmother Anna Koppelman, who emigrated from Lithuania in the 1880s, her daughter Naomi, her daughter Helen (Bunny) and me, Diana (Denny)