In tribute to an unmet great grandmother
The amethyst ring
When I first began this writing, I asked my grandmother for more details, she said my memory was faulty and asked why I didn't read the letter accompanying the
I never met Marie Wittenberg, the French-German owner of the amethyst ring. C. knew her briefly for nine short months, but left alone by a grieving father and husband, the nine-month old baby was never formally introduced to Marie. Marie died of consumption, the more literary term for tuberculosis. R. was unable to care for a baby and left C. with relatives for a dozen years.
Grandmother C., “Grammy”, did not know much of her mother’s life before her death. When a young granddaughter asked, no relative sources stepped forth to inform. Great-Grandfather R. never wanted to remember, so I learned more of C.’s life, growing up on a farm with cousins and chores, making her own memories to replace those she would never have of her mother, nor of her father. She married young, feeling marriage was a duty. She had an obligatory daughter, my mother, B. My mother remembers a conversation of her youth. Grandfather A., “Poppy”, wanted five kids, but C. admitted “I never wanted to have children, but it was expected.” A lack of a mother, an absentee father, shaped her views and a regimental coldness was her maternal norm. Her stoic resolve blinded her to the possibilities.
My mother tells me Marie was a pilot, one of the first female pilots in New Jersey. To her, the possibilities must have been as high as the clouds.
As a child, I heard one story about Marie. Her parents gifted each child’s entrance into adulthood with $50 to spend. At 18, Marie’s eyes were caught by a beautiful oval cut amethyst ring set in a filigree white-gold setting. She spent all of her money on that ring. It is rather ostentatiously large and looks like costume jewelry, but it’s genuine. And to Marie, it represented the endless possibilities of a future filled with romance, marriage, children, and hope. The sky wouldn’t limit her possibilities.
Marie died three years later, nine months after giving birth to her daughter. Grammy kept that ring, closing it in a drawer of suppressed emotions. The ring was not passed on to her daughter, but hoarded away as she stifled her own possibilities. Somehow in hoarding and passing on jewelry, bitterness took root burying further C.’s eyes to the possibilities.
And then something happened. Two grandchildren arrived with bustling energy and boundless inquisitionary delight. Unplanned, they began to chip away at her wall of ice to create a grandmother not so uptight. These young ones, a boy and a girl, intrigued her to the possibilities for love in the world.
Grammy bequeathed to me that amethyst ring the February month when I turned sixteen. She explained it was more than a birthstone or jewelry and shared with me that one beloved story. “My mother bought that ring and now I give it to you.” This amethyst ring will never be sold. It is more than a ring, more expensive than gold. It represents young dreams, family, grief, and hope, but most importantly, the possibilities in life. The possibilities to change, to grow, and to learn to love.