I don’t think the diamond shone this much when I first put it on my finger 36 years ago. I kept twisting it this way and that, amazed by its brilliance and clarity. It had looked so dull just a few days before, sitting on my finger like an old steady companion, unobtrusive but always there. My daughter had offered to take it in for a cleaning and polishing at the jewelry company where she works, and I blithely handed it over, not realizing what a transformation was about to take place.
I looked at that shiny stone and thought back, trying to remember my emotions when I first put it on upon becoming engaged. The ring was a symbol of a new beginning as a wife, and closing the chapter on being a child. (Little did I know then that you never give up the role of being your parents’ child!) It signified reaching a certain place in adult society and being taken seriously in the grown up world of work, bills, and ultimately, parenthood. It was an emblem, both for me as the wearer, and the rest of my circle of friends who would see it on my finger, and would thus know what ‘category’ I belonged to in our group.
As is the case with many materialistic symbols, over time they seem to lose their significance in our lives. The ring remained on my finger, but was not noticed for its sparkle or place in establishing my life role. The grime and grit of pollution, housework and everyday life invaded its base and dulled its shine as the years rolled by. I didn’t hold up my hand in the air to admire its beauty anymore, and it sat on my finger, much like an old book on a shelf – holding a place but no longer taken down to be re-read and enjoyed.
My finger felt strange with the ring gone. The emptiness seemed to make more of an impression than the tangible band when it was on my finger. And then it returned to take its place back in my life. Could this be my ring? Suddenly it looked so big, so bright and so important. I held it up to admire its beauty and luster.
What does it take for us to see something old with the clarity of looking at it sparkling as a new diamond? How many things do we take for granted in our everyday lives – spouses, children, parents. They are there as the background of our lives, sometimes playing a ‘walk on’ role as we star in our personal daily productions. Sometimes they take center stage and we seem to notice them anew, like the diamond sparkling on my finger. We grow so accustomed to our routines and the people in them, that we don’t notice what makes them so special in our existence.
Sometimes it is only when someone is gone that we realize what an impact they had upon us. In our longing for what they added to our lives, we regret how little we actually appreciated their investments in our very being. Recently, when I was paying for a purchase at a department store, the saleswoman noticed my ring and commented on how she had the same shape diamond on her engagement ring. She then added that her husband died several years ago, and she stopped wearing it. I was at a loss as to how to respond to this comment. I suppose taking off her ring signified to her the loss of her husband in her life; when it was on her finger, he was a part of her life. With his passing, it was time to remove the ring and all that it symbolized for her.
The day my daughter brought my ring back to me and I placed it once again on my finger, I decided to try and actively notice the people whose presence in my life I had come to take for granted. Like a brand new pair of glasses that suddenly transforms a blurry picture into something clear and distinct, I could ‘see’ the qualities of my husband and children that I had simply been blinded to over time. I discovered though it can be very difficult to sustain this view.
Over the past few months, my ring has started to become a little less bright. But when I stop to notice it from time to time sitting so complacently on my finger, I remind myself that it is in my power to ‘polish’ my view of the world around me.
Susan Schwartz is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is the president of Davka Corporation.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.