My mother wears a car on the third finger of her left hand.
At least, so I was always told as a child. With a vague notion that old cars were crushed, and that diamonds resulted from the crushing of other substances, there was a strange logic to the story that I found perfectly acceptable. The true story was slightly different.
Never terribly demonstrative, my father’s idea of a proposal was “When will we get married?”. The purchase of the ring itself was a far grander gesture. A young captain in the Irish army, my father was about to be posted to Cyprus, with the knowledge that on his return he would be deployed to Northern Ireland. Rather than leave my mother behind, he asked her to accompany him to Cyprus and marry him there. To that end he sold his prize possession, his first ever car, an Austin A40.
In 1969, most officers of my father’s rank would have spent about one month’s salary, or less, on an engagement ring. My father spent the equivalent of about three months’, thanks to the sale of that car. Almost the entire proceeds went on the ring, a magnificent diamond cluster with a delicate gold band, almost too fine to hold the combined weight of the diamonds. It is a beautiful piece of jewellery, timelessly elegant and coveted by all who see it (including myself and my sisters).
Like any car would have, the ring has had its share of dings and dents over the years. When we were living in Israel in the ’80s burglaries were rife and my mother put the ring on top of a wardrobe for safekeeping. Forgetting that it was there, she one day pulled a suitcase from the top of the same wardrobe, catching and dragging the poor ring till it was bent almost double. A few months later she left it behind in Jerusalem after a holiday, not missing it until we were home in Nahariya, several hours’ drive north. Miraculously, the owners of the apartment we’d stayed in turned their home upside down, found and returned it; it had slipped off her finger while she was making a bed, and was stuck down the side of a mattress. (She also left my little brother behind in the same apartment, but that’s another story.) On another memorable occasion, my mother replaced the ring on her finger after washing up, only to discover a stone missing. After turning the house upside-down searching for the stone to no avail, she was so upset that she went to bed in the middle of the afternoon – something we children had never seen her do before, no matter how sick or tired she ever was.
This week my parents will celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary, which means that my mother’s ring, despite setbacks, has been going strong for forty years. I somehow doubt that my father would have gotten as much mileage out of that Austin A40.