Repurposing a Ring

Because moms are generous and strong.

By Brooke Clubbs

One August morning, I awoke to a bug crawling on my face. That was how we discovered bed bugs in our master bedroom. We arranged for our thermal remediation: generator power heaters that get the temperature of your house to 120 degrees and fans that blow that heated air into every crevice to kill any bug. That hot tornado was not covered by homeowners’ insurance, involved a lot of preparation and required us to be out of our house for two days. After some thorough anger-and anxiety-fueled decluttering and cleaning, we camped out at my mom’s house to let the exterminators do their work. 

After returning and putting our home back together, I saw the diamond had fallen out of my engagement ring. It was like its front tooth was knocked out. When my mother asked if I might like to wear a ring of hers, I started to protest. Though my dad passed away nine years ago, my mother has never stopped wearing her engagement ring and wedding band. Then she showed me a ring I had not seen before. 

It was from the engagement she called off in college. She had once told me how verbally abusive George had been, and I was always proud of her for being strong enough to end that relationship. But I didn’t realize she had kept the ring. “Well, I paid for half of it. He told me I had to. So I did. That’s what fat girls did in the 60s,” my mom told me. I agreed to wear the “George ring” with pride and a bit of defiance, reclaiming it for happier times.

I didn’t want to leave the other ring in my jewelry dish, though. After giving up on finding my diamond, I asked a local jeweler if we could take the diamond from mom’s ring and put it on my engagement ring. We could. We could also add a shank to make the ring stronger, polish my wedding band to match it and resize both (gently letting go of my fantasy that I would lose enough weight to make them fit as they did 20 years and three babies ago).

I know I am still married without the rings. I know that diamonds are just things. But, when I studied Konstanin Stanislavski’s famous acting method as a theater student, one of the key components we learned was endowing objects so that theatrical props become characters’ dear possessions. My rings are endowed objects. They are part of my story. My mother’s old ring may begin a new story. It will be endowed differently now, a symbol of strength, generosity and reinvention. 

I also decided that since there would be a three-week wait for my ring’s transformation, I would use that time for another kind of healing. I headed straight from the jeweler’s to a tattoo studio. I had myself endowed with a thin line and three dots to represent past, present and future. As the design was created, I thought of Solomon 8:6 (NRSV): “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death.” Love is stronger than ink, gold or diamonds, too. And now, that will be symbolized by all three on just one finger.