My mother Mildred was born on the wrong side of the tracks in Charleston SC. Her daddy was a brakeman on the railroad, content at that position and unwilling to accept promotion to conductor. Although they had train passes to go anywhere on vacations, there was not much money, and she remembers sitting on the curb crying because she’d outgrown her shoes and they hurt her feet. I remember her toes, distorted from this, with large bunions.
She and her sister made all their own clothes. They were quite talented: could walk quickly through a department store, memorize all details of the latest Paris fashions, head for home and duplicate exactly. They’d have buttonhole races– who’d have the least thread left over on finishing (this is an insider’s contest, understandable only if you sew by hand).
She was 2nd youngest in a family of 7 children, and the oldest, her only sister, married and left to make her own home when Mildred was 8 years old. This meant: walking home from school at noon every day wash dishes from her brothers’ lunch. I think the family ‘had pretensions’ and was raising its sons to be Southern Gentlemen (read: in need of being waited on).
Without a by-your-leave, her parents decided she would be the one to stay and take care of them in their old age. Despite this, Mom fell in love when she was in her teens. Her mother’s response to this was to call off the engagement and lock her in her room for 10 days. Mom said she had a “complete nervous breakdown” then… Apparently her fiance never got her out of his mind, and later married another woman with her name who looked just like her.
My father showed up in Charleston when mother was 29 years old, as result of a shipwreck. He’d been working at the shipyard in Weymouth MA and was on a ship taking her maiden voyage. The captain ran her up on the sandbanks outside of Charleston harbor, and it took 10 days for a tug to get down from New York… during that wait, Dad somehow met Mom through mutual friends. He disappeared thereafter for a month. Apparently he was nailing down a job and otherwise preparing to be a Responsible Married Man, for he came back, they eloped, and he took her North forever.
My mom was a complicated woman. Due to her habit of intense social climbing it was hard to get a straight answer out of her– ‘upwardly mobile middle class’ means: striving to be who you are NOT– and I’ve had to piece stuff together, meditating on scraps ’til they fell into place. Her early life at the end of the Victorian era, which included abusiveness at the hands of her brothers, closed many of her interior doors. No tools were available with which to open them- let alone deal with the items shut therein. This situation manifested as depression, which she handled by busyness, always cleaning, gardening, making our clothes & dollclothes for church bazaars, chat-chat-chatting, gobbling romance novels… and some crying jags.
At one point, Mother moved into Dispersal Mode and started handing out her family heirlooms from the jewelry box we’d been allowed to explore occasionally, when we’d been really good children… She put a diamond ring in my hand, saying it had been given her by her mother and I was to have it now.
I nearly dropped the thing! It about burned my palm, a cold hard diamond! Developed an instant dislike for it, buried it in a box, trailed it around with me for a couple decades… until #2 Son became engaged. His fiancee was a Norwegian girl named Line Sofie; my grandmother was nicknamed Lena (pronounced the same). It was close enough!, and I passed the diamond on to Benjamin for her…. BUT FIRST!! Clean up that thing!!!
Although I could hardly bear to look at it, I sat with the ring: WHAT had gone on here??
Gradually the picture emerged: Adeline had given my mother the diamond ring as a sop to patch the broken engagement. No wonder it had such a bad vibe. I have no idea of the ring’s earlier history– my husband, the metaphysical geologist, knows which mine the stone came from. It’s likely that it was bought at that time, late 1920’s, for its express purpose.
Happenstantially, a group of esoterically-minded friends were getting together… I can’t remember THEIR purpose, but I had definite plans for them: the ring came to our first meeting, and I asked their help, prayer and intention for clearing its karmic past.
This worked: song, water, fire, salt… suddenly we had a beautiful ring in our hands! 63 facets in a brilliant setting, and it remains a bright light reflecting the strong true connection between my son and his wife.