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The Cerulean Ring
The drive to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey felt like an eternity, despite taking just under two hours to arrive there on a bad day. I hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving—and before that, Mother’s Day—and my cousins, aunts, and uncles whom I hadn’t seen in almost a year. Christmas Eve was the time of the year for everyone, including family members who lived afar, to gather and reinforce their kinship. Although I looked forward to reuniting with each and every one of my relatives, the person I longed to see again the most was my great-grandmother.
My great-grandmother, who we liked to call AnnaMama—it is a name based on her birth name, which was Anna Marie—held a place in my heart that no one else did. She was ninety-five then, but looked nothing close to it; a short, frail lady with chin-length black hair, her chocolaty brown eyes still glittering with life. Anna Marie Adams (née Angelastro) was known for the pure Italian blood in her veins, and the spirited personality it had given her. She was loved by her entire family, and she loved them back, but she had evident favorites and treated them with unconditional respect. According to my mother, she was the favorite in her childhood—but once I came along, she became my predecessor. AnnaMama and I were close throughout my life, but it wasn’t until the last years of her life that we were inseparable.
Once we pulled into my grandparents’ driveway, we climbed out of the car and walked over to the trunk. My mother handed me a few bags to carry—we’d be staying overnight and spending Christmas morning there—and I scurried in ahead of them. I could see my cousins, Cooper and Matty, chasing each other past the window. I grinned at them as I held the door open for my mother and three brothers, then followed them inside.
I started down the hallway, receiving a few kisses and hugs from relatives along the way, and put my bags on the kitchen table. I could smell ham cooking in the roasting pan beside me. My grandfather had inserted a thermometer into it, and was just starting to cut it. I looked over and said, “Smells good.” He looked up, realized who I was and greeted me. I went over to my grandmother—AnnaMama’s oldest of her two daughters, my Aunt Robin the youngest—as she was pulling the macaroni and cheese out of the stove and shoveling her wooden spoon through it.
The mixture of salivating fragrances wafted through my nostrils and left just as quickly when I entered the living room, where AnnaMama was perched on the sofa. With excitement, she motioned me over to her. I obliged without hesitation and loosely wrapped my arms around her bony shoulders.
“There you are, my little girl,” she said as she brushed her hand down my arm lovingly. I felt at home in the embrace, so warm and welcoming just as I had remembered. “What took you so long?”
“Sorry. We just got here.” I laughed. I noticed that she was wearing a furry, leopard-print coat, and her nails had been freshly painted crimson red—my favorite color. “Your nails look nice.”
“Thank you. You know, if you stopped biting these poor nails”—she took me by the wrist and beheld my fingernails, short and gnarled with bite marks—“your nails could be long and beautiful like mine.”
I couldn’t help but to laugh. I had a subconscious habit of gnawing on my nails, and she had an even worse habit of scolding me for it whenever she saw me. “I know, I know. I’m trying. It’s a bad habit.”
“Yes, it is.” AnnaMama looked at me, not a hint of anger on her face. No hard feelings toward me had ever been instilled in her. “Actually, I have a present for you that’ll make your hand even prettier.” Then, she reached into her pocket, retrieved a ring box, and handed it to me. I held it under the dim golden light of the table lamp, and she glanced over my shoulder as I flipped the top up. My mouth fell agape.
The ring inside had a triangular metal band—faint brass on it from age—which held an almond-shaped, cerulean stone with scrupulous cracks in it. It was the most beautiful ring I’d ever laid eyes upon. “I bought that in the 1920s. Your mother told me that you love antiques, so I thought that would be perfect for you,” AnnaMama said from behind me.
I turned to look at her again, my cheeks flushing red and I could feel the warmth flooding through the rest of my face. I had no words. The ring was stunning on its own, even more-so with the knowledge that it had been an anachronism. How do I thank her enough? I don’t want to seem ungrateful, I’m just . . . speechless . . . Where do I begin?
“ I . . . Wow.” I laughed, but there was nothing humorous about this. Simply, I was speechless, and I was just trying to fill in the blanks. “Thank you. It’s so beautiful.”
I slid it down my right ring finger and took a moment to admire it. She did likewise, smiling at how it looked on me. Although I was never fond of hugging people, I felt inclined to give her another hug—and I did, not feeling obligated at all to do so. She was, and continued to be the person whose signs of affection I cherished nevertheless.
The cerulean ring was one of the last gifts I ever received from my AnnaMama before she passed away two years later. I haven’t let it out of my sight since she had given it to me on Christmas Eve, and it remains safe in my possession. It is valuable not only because it’s a timeless antique, but that it once belonged to my great-grandmother, and she’d worn it when she was my age. The mere sight of it brings me so close to her again, even if she isn’t there physically.