“These diamonds were from my mother’s brooch. I prefer rings so I had them set in this band. So this is my mom on my finger,” said the sales assistant, eyes suddenly glistening. I had been looking at handbags when I noticed her beautiful ring and commented on it. “I inherited my mom’s engagement ring but I can’t bear to change it yet. How long after your mother died did you have your ring made?” I asked. “Five years. Yes, it took five years before I could gather the courage. You’ll know when you’re ready. You’ll just know”.
Two middle-aged women, strangers, now suddenly friends, sharing their deepest hurt and treasures. “I still miss my mother terribly,” she said as I left. A mother’s love can never be replaced, we agreed and hugged with tearful eyes. I entered the shop looking for a handbag and left in tears but with a smile in my heart. I am not alone. This time of the year there are lots of us. It doesn’t matter what age, it seems. I thought I was too old to suddenly be so needy. I was caught unawares. I thought again of my mother’s ring. When my father proposed he had the jeweller put a row of rings in front of my mother for her to choose from. She knew the prices of the rings. She knew his financial situation at the time and selected the smallest ring. My father had the ring reset for her many years later. A bigger, bolder setting. The ring arrived from the jeweller two weeks after my father had passed away. So when I look at this setting, I know the love in the making of it. Her love at the start. His love at the end. Symbolic of their deep, enduring love.
In the eighteen months since mom passed away, I have frequented op shops looking at anything that reminds me of my childhood. Fortunately, the very same vases and porcelain can be found on the shelves. Crystal and EPNS items were sought after in our parent’s generation. My mother treasured her wedding gifts, mostly EPNS. Butter dishes, sugar bowls and teaspoon sets. “They are worthless now — can’t get rid of them,” said the owner of an antique shop. They’re no longer fashionable. But each little vase or apostle cake fork takes me back to our lounge and Sunday afternoons. Crumpets or scones and jam and cream. Tradition. Made with love by mom. Polishing the apostles is now therapeutic and a tangible memory of those happy days.
“I really miss my mother this time of year. She used to have all the Christmas food ready in good time. I don’t know how she did it all. We had such a small kitchen,” laments a friend on Facebook. Her mom died more than thirty years ago. I remember to be grateful. I had so much of my mom. So many Christmases, so many laughs. So many treasured phone calls. And what do I remember most about her apart from her traditional Christmas cakes, sought-after marmalade and knitted rabbits for each newborn in the family? Her love. Her kindness. Her encouragement. In her Bible I found a note in her handwriting: Love must control our thoughts, words and deeds. Whatever we say and do will then be inspired by love and we shall lead a life which is good in the sight of the Lord. Liefde is ‘n doen word. My mother was a giver. When I’m generous, I feel closer to her.
“I can’t explain the feeling I get when I do something for someone else or give a gift,” she would say, her 86-year-old eyes twinkling with merriment. At Christmas time, when I feel a twinge of sadness and long for my mom, perhaps I’ll give something away, apart from presents. A smile. A smile of gratitude for a mother who sowed love and reaped peace. And who showed me the way to contentment. I’ll give away hugs of understanding to those who also still mourn a mom. Meanwhile, I may convert mom’s ring into a pendant and wear her closer to my heart. Not yet, though, like my new friend says, I’ll know when the time is right.
Image – AFP