By Louise Ure
We all have things we keep – holding them close to our heart. Other things we sell or give away, their meaning no longer important to us. But then there are the things we’ve lost. Things that define us even though we don’t have them anymore. And those are the ones that hurt the most.
It was a humid August afternoon in Austin, Texas, and I’d just finished lunch with the account team at GSD&M Advertising. It is only coincidence that I usually associate those initials with Greed, Sex, Drugs & Money – the four best reasons to commit a crime.
I was working on something that would make no difference in anyone’s life … a new feature on a cell phone, a new long distance pricing plan. Whatever it was, I cared deeply about it at the time, and the conversation was heated. Tempers flared and hands flew.
I knocked over my coffee, spilling it on my hands and lap and strewing those little packets of mysterious whitener like starter kits of cocaine across the table.
It wasn’t until I was back in the hotel room several hours later that I realized the loss.
There was an airy space where my wedding ring should have been.
In a moment of pure photographic recall, I remembered taking off my ring, wiping the coffee from my hands, cleaning the ring, bundling everything up in paper napkins and throwing it all away.
My arm ached with the sense memory of trying to call back that toss.
I drove back to the agency, where a stooped, sixty-five year old Mexican man met me at the door with a bucket in his hand.
“Ayúdame … por favor.”
The night cleaning crew took pity on me. We pawed through the trashcans in the conference room. We got down on our hands and knees and searched the floor. We emptied the vacuum cleaner bags. We stood shoulder to shoulder in the dumpster out back and went through every plastic bag with flashlights.
It was gone.
I wasn’t dreading telling my husband. Hell, he’d left his wedding ring in three different hotel rooms around the world and had to have it mailed back to him.
No, the diamond belonged to Mimi.
Mimi was my grandmother, Leonora Bianca Cosamini, born in the mountain town of Lucca per Barga in Tuscany in 1896 and carried to America as a baby. Unlike many Italian immigrants, they came west. West to a land still punctuated with gunfire and cattle rustling and barefoot Papago Indians making daily treks to market down the middle of a dirt road grandly named Broadway.
She was as intrepid and independent as her new land, running away at thirteen from the convent where she’d been in training, and eloping with a thirty-three year-old man with bright blue eyes. Her parents had him arrested for kidnapping and sent her back to Italy.
Fat lot of good that did. Jimmy Counter found her in Lucca and kidnapped her all over again.
Thus began their short, hot life together. Only three years later, Jimmy died in a plane crash while trying to strew rose petals over the house in apology for a spat the night before.
He left her with two children … and that diamond ring.
It was an Old Miner’s Cut stone, more cushion-shaped than today’s brilliant cuts, with a smaller table on the top and greater depth than diamonds carved today. A cut like that doesn’t reflect much light; it holds it close and keeps the joy inside.
Mimi died in 1971. The ring is what I had of her.
I need to know what happened to it.
In my mind’s eye, it was found the next day in the city dump by a young Latina named Genoveva, whose pregnancy demanded a marriage ceremony, but whose young lover could not afford a ring.
They consider it a miracle, just like the child growing inside her.
They thank the Virgin Mary every night in their prayers and the guardian angels who left heaven to drop the ring at their feet.
They lived happily ever after.
Well, that’s the way it should have been anyway.
I hold the memory of that ring inside me. And the love behind it.
What, my friends, defines you, even in its absence? What have you ever lost that you would give your heart to get back?
P.S. Check out this terrific half-day seminar on "How to Create Killer Openings," sponsored by MWA Norcal. September 8, in San Mateo, California. Details are here.