My mother is a practical woman who places a high value on quality but feels no need to identify herself with any sort of brand or compete with the neighbors. When she and my father were engaged it was decided the best use of the money that would otherwise be spent on a ring would instead be saved for a down payment on a home. Wanting her to have something nice, my father bought her a gold ring with nine small (very small) emeralds a few years after they were married. I remember as a child often finding it on the ring stand in the kitchen. All of the jewelry she wore on a regular basis could be found on the ring stand. She’d put things there before fixing dinner or washing the dishes. I remember her with her coat on picking the ring up in passing to get her keys right before we left the house. I remember trying it on as a child, it was too big for my index finger, and thinking that someday I would have a nice ring too.

On a recent trip to visit I went through my mother’s jewelry box while she was getting dressed for the day. Even though my mother was never a collector of fine jewelry I have always been taken by its contents: my Brownie badge, a tin pin of a llama from Peru a student gave her when she was teaching, her college charm bracelet…, and it just feels like you may find something you’ve never seen before.

Having recently gotten the diamond ring she always wanted, the emerald ring had been relegated to the jewelry box from the ring stand. Upon finding it I did what I’ve always done and put it on. It now comfortably fits my middle finger. “You can take it if you like,” she said “I don’t wear it now that I have the diamond. It wasn’t very expensive, but Dad bought it so I would have something nice and I’ve enjoyed wearing it over the years.”

Returning home I took it to my favorite jewelers who confirmed what I suspected – it wasn’t worth enough to bother having appraised. What once looked big now seems small. Even after cleaning it the emeralds are cloudy and one appears scratched. Though I will always remember my mother wearing it and finding it on the ring stand wondering what kind of ring I’d have when I grew up. It’s my reminder that we may outgrow the past, and though what once seemed like a big step may now seem insignificant, we can still appreciate each accomplishment.