After my grandmother died, after the funeral and burial at the cemetery, as was the custom, people gathered at a restaurant to eat a meal and anyone was free to get up (often there was a mike) and tell their stories and share remembrances of my grandmother and what she meant to them.
During my wanderings one Saturday, while shopping the indoor “yard sale” at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home on
Manhattan York Avenue
in the high 80s, I came across a ring. Mixed up in a shoe box of jewelry odds and ends — it was an Art Deco square-faced
ring with a small diamond chip set-in a V-shape between the cut-out numerals “1933” on the face. It fit
and I bought it for a dollar. Later when
I had a jeweler look at it, it turned out to be platinum. From the day I first
saw it, I always wondered whose ring it was, what had happened for her in that
year, and where she was now.
Once I had this ring, I decided to collect “year” rings. Certainly I didn’t see them often and they would be fun to hunt for. I always had to have something to look for…first quilts, then posters, next pottery, and now, due to the jammed-packed studio apartment I lived in, I was steering away from the bigger items and looking to downsize my collections. Reagan cards completely fit the bill. Not much of an initial investment financially, I was confident that this compact political memorabilia was bound to be valuable one day. Slowly I was amassing quite a stack. There were the predictable reissued postcards of his movie days, “Bedtime for Bonzo” and the like. Then the official stuff: White House portraits of Ronald and the family, inaugural ball shots, and of course photo ops during the course of his presidency. But it was the satirical cards that I liked best. The comic ones of Nancy selling the White House china on the great lawn for $3 a plate; Ron hurling bombs at Brezhnev; or the not-so-presidential ones from Germany, England, or France — Ron naked in a cowboy hat riding Nancy; Reagan (or was it his son?) half-naked in leather suspenders holding a can of Crisco...you get the picture. After collecting close to 200 (not counting duplicates), year-rings seemed a welcome change.
[I would've liked to have shown you some of those Reagan cards but I seem to have misplaced the collection...for the moment.]
Gathered in New Jersey with the family at my Aunt Maddy’s house, my Gramma was admiring my 1933 ring. I explained to her that I was collecting rings like it.
“I have a ring like that and next time you-come-my-house, honey, I’ll give you that ring.” she informed me.
“No Gramma, you don’t understand." I said to her, "It has to be a ring with the year on it. Just the year.”
“And I have a ring like that ho-kee-see (my soul), and I’m gonna give you that ring when you come my house,” she restated.
“Gramma,” I patiently repeated, “it’s gotta just have the year, nothing else. No other name or school or anything.”
“Yes and I have that ring.” she persisted. “My brother Hosroff gave it to me and I’m gonna give you that ring next time you come my house.”
I smiled dismissively because I was sure she just didn’t get it.
A few months later, we went down to the shore to see my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Helga and Gramma. Gramma now lived in an apartment on
Ocean Avenue, four
blocks from her original house on Ninth
Uncle Charlie and his family lived in the house of my Gramma so it was still
like being at the Gramma’s I knew.
I walked down toward the beach and rang the bell of my Gramma’s apartment.
“I’m-a so happy to see you honey, I’m glad you come. Come my bedroom.” We went in to her small bedroom and she sat down on her bed.
“Go in my closet, hokesee, down in the bottom, you see a purple shoebox? Bring me that shoebox.”
“You mean this one?” I asked as I dug out the box from the neat stacks on the floor of her closet.
“That’s the one,” she smiled. “You come here.”
As she opened the lid I saw that inside were small bundles of things, each wrapped in tissues and she took out a few and looked inside and replaced them until she found the one she was looking for — a metal ring with a scrolled filigree 1918 on its face.
“GRAMMA,” I exploded, “it’s a 1918 ring! It’s exactly what I'm collecting! I'm SO happy!”
“I told you I had that ring,” she said pointedly looking me in the eye.
“But I didn't think you’d knew what I meant! I can’t believe you have this ring — it is SO perfect! Where did you get this ring??”
“Well, when I’m gonna be eighteen, I’m gonna graduate school and then I’m gonna get married to Grampa, so my brother, Hosroff wanted me to have something. Something to make it special for me cause I’m the first in my family to graduate eighth grade. But don’t tell anyone I gave you that ring, honey.”
She always said that whenever she gave you something. “Don’t tell the others. I don’t want them to know you’re my favorite.”
So, while I don’t remember all the wonderful things people said about Gramma after the funeral, I heard my sister tell the story of how she was Gramma’s favorite because when she and cousin Bobby came home summer nights past their curfew and the fathers were waiting to give them the devil, Gramma always positioned herself in-between to keep my Dad and Uncle John at bay.
Then I listened to my cousin Linda who said that SHE was Gramma’s favorite because she was the one who lived with Gramma while she went to college and having spent all that time together knew Gramma’s loved her best.
And then, I got up and said, sorry, but I was Gramma’s favorite and I had the ring to prove it.
Years later when our home was broken into and the 1927 ring with the initials B.A.D (Bucky Dean’s ring acquired from his estate sale in North Carolina) and the 1933 Art Deco platinum ring with the diamond chip were taken, I thanked my stars I had the 1918 on my finger that day.
My Gramma made each and every one of us feel that we were her absolute and only favorite — and that is what was so very special about her.