I removed my ring (my family heirloom, my most prized possession because it is beautiful, it makes me feel strong and independent, it ties me to my family heritage, it reminds me of my aunt A who gave it to me, it makes me think of my dad as his sister gave it to me, it’s lived on some fancy fingers and I try to live up to that) and thought about where to put it while I slathered on sunscreen. The cup holders were full. The pocket in the door handle was too shallow. My purse was too big. I put it on my lap.
The cool lotion soothed my baking skin.
J slammed on the brakes as the sign about sweet corn alerted us to the farmers’ market. As J had taken care of other group expenses, she would add this to her total to be divided up later. I stepped over my purse. Reds and oranges and yellows and greens painted each bucket of produce and sweetly scented peaches drew my attention while J drooled over the tomatoes. Two city girls beaming in the middle of a farmers market. Bags in hand, we returned to the car and to the final 15 minutes of our trip. Up and around the mountain, ears popping, me calling out directions. We were the first car to arrive.
Car #2 showed up 20 minutes later and as we were chatting and carrying things into the house, my ears started ringing and my bare hand trembled. Where was my ring?
I don’t think she’s listening, someone said.
I shook my head. I lifted my hand. My ring is gone, I said. Oh no, they said. J and I tore apart her car. Crumbs and papers and receipts and 15 pens, but no ring. I moved her car from its spot and we searched the ground underneath. Nothing.
I was putting the sunscreen on, I said. I put it in my lap. It’s at the market. I have to go back. I have to go back to the market. Can I take your car? I can drive. You can drive. I have to go back.
J hugged me and handed me her keys and I drove off with a heightened sense of sight. I, the one who still gets lost in Boston 12 years later, remembered each turn down the mountain. Right, right, left, right, route 33. Look for the cupcake sign. Look for the spa sign. Slam on the brakes. Pull into the lot.
Along the way, my aunt L came to mind. Two years ago, I drove her from PA to MA and she explained how she went from a strict organized religion to a looser, more forgiving new age frame of mind. I liked the idea of the spirit guides then and I truly needed them now. Plus, she’s a sister to my dad and aunt A. I figured if I ever needed to invoke the power of my family, this was it. Maybe some of the family’s spirit guides could help too. I clutched the steering wheel. The knobby bits underneath the wheel worrying under my fingers like rosary beads.
My ring is insured, but does that policy cover stupidity?
Also, I don’t want a replacement. That won’t have lived on fancy family fingers. It won’t have seen cocktail parties from decades ago. It won’t sparkle the same.
I inhaled a gigantic breath and stepped out of the car. There were only a few cars in the lot. The entire area where we’d previously parked was empty. I systematically walked over the gravel. I tiptoed over the rocks. Shades of gray to perfectly conceal the platinum I was looking for. Come on, ring, I thought. Live up to your name. Sparkle for me. Show me where you are.
Bile rose as nothing but nature appeared.
I walked to the front of the parking spot to go about the search from a new angle. I looked to the employees. All busy. I was too close to tears to explain what I was looking for anyways. Then, a familiar sparkle caught my eye. Afraid it wasn’t real and afraid it would disappear if I moved too fast, I dove onto the gravel.
Dusty, but in perfect shape.
I found it I found it I found it I found it, I cried into the phone.
I’d called J but KAK answered and provided the necessary exclamations of cheer and happiness. Now get back here and start celebrating, she said. With my family connection secured, I drove with shaking hands and a steady heart back to the mountain that contained my college friends.