All through the preacher's sermon I'd stare at the pretty ring on her slender finger and wonder, Why not me?
Why couldn't I have a ring like my friends?
But she didn't live in the country, didn't have to slop the pigs and dirty her hands. I'd never be able to keep a ring like hers looking pretty. Even though the stone in her ring matched my blue eyes, I had my heart set on a friendship ring, the kind another friend received for her birthday. Her shiny, wide band of silver had two little dangling hearts attached, and I'd set my heart a ring like hers.
Long before Thanksgiving I found a picture of the ring in a newspaper ad, cut it out, and started dropping hints. The newspaper clipping never left my purse, but I slept with my purse under my pillow to make sure I'd dream about heart's desire.
Christmas morning finally arrived, and to my delight in the toe of my stocking, I found a small ring box. Not daring to hope, I carefully opened the box.
The ring inside was nothing like the picture I kept in my purse. My ring was even better than I'd hoped. The ring fit my finger perfectly and the silver hearts jingled every time my hand moved. The silver flashed in the sunlight, so bright it hurt my eyes.
I loved the way the ring looked on my finger. Unable to believe my good fortune, I spent the morning admiring it, even while I peeled potatoes and fed the pigs. I couldn't wait to show it off when our relatives came for the annual feast and gift exchange.
Our house had the biggest dining room so we usually hosted Christmas dinner. The relatives arrived by threes and fours, bringing presents for later and their contributions to the meal. I hurried each of my cousins out to the swing where I first showed off my pretty ring, then pushed each one in the rope swing.
My ring finger soon began to hurt. When I checked to see why, I discovered a blister was forming at its base. It really hurt, so I slipped off my ring and carefully placed it in the small dirt-filled circle formed by the nearest tree's roots where I could easily find it when I was ready to put the ring back on.
Tired of doing girl stuff, my cousin Donald began to complain. He wanted to go over on the school grounds and do boy things, so I led the way to the chin-up bar and he showed off on it until my sister Ann called everybody in to eat.
After dinner Diane and I took turns washing dishes, then dried our hands. That's when I missed my ring. "Come on," I whispered to her and headed out the front door. I ran up the slight grade, Diane right on my heels.
"Where are you going?" she asked, out of breath.
"You'll see." I stopped at the tree that supported the kid's swing and dropped to my knees on the ground. "Huh!" My heart sank.
"Well?" Diane asked.
"It's gone. The ring I got for Christmas is gone. How can that be? Who could have taken it?"
We felt around all the tree roots, searched under those that made big circles above the ground. My ring was nowhere to be found.
"Momma is going to kill me," I whispered. "I just got my ring this morning, and now it's gone."
Ann called us in for the gift exchange. I refused to cry. Someone was bound to notice my eyes were red and then I'd have to confess. How could I have been so careless? Was I jinxed when it came to rings?
When the company left, I searched under the tree again. How could I confess to my parents I'd already lost my special gift? After what had happened to my other ring when I was in second grade I'd planned to be especially careful with this one. That time I had been cleaning the goldfish bowl when my ring with the pretty blue stone disappeared down the school sink drain.
Me losing this ring would really disappoint Momma. We both had thought I was mature enough now to keep up with my things.
I didn't sleep well that night and next morning crept out before breakfast to search for the ring again. What was I hoping? That fairies had brought it back?
I still couldn't find the ring, sadly gave up and went in to eat. Slumped in my seat, pondering how to come clean about my loss, I glanced at my empty cereal bowl.
Not empty at all! There sat my lost ring, shining up at me.
Lesson learned. I didn't take my ring off again until I outgrew it. I never knew who found that lost ring, but suspect it was my sister Ann, the adult pleaser, the only one in our household who would have gone straight to Momma instead of giving it back to me.
This is a chapter from Why Not Me? a memoir written at the request of my adult daughters, who have an insatiable curiosity about my childhood. If you enjoyed this story, go to http://lasrguest.blogspot.com/
for December 20 to read about my earliest Christmas recollections.