Yesterday was Emerald’s 20th birthday. Jasper and I met her at Lochsa Lodge. I took her out to dinner. Made strawberry pie for breakfast. It’s becoming a new tradition. strawberry pie on the Lochsa on her birthday. She reminded me of an older tradition. Her dad said that a girl should get fine jewelry once per decade. Since I am not much into jewelry…I am assuming this was just their tradition. But, it got me thinking.
Just shy of 10 years old, Emerald talked me into getting her ears pierced. Her dad and I thought she was too young, but she wore us down. She has a way of doing that. For her 10th birthday, Jim bought her a pair of emerald earrings. I was appalled. This was a kid that could lose her swim suit on a private beach, and was always losing mittens, coats, sweatshirts by leaving them in someone else’s car. She still has those earrings, and she remembered that her dad told her at 20 she should get more. She’s been looking in Missoula, and not finding much.
Jim asked me to marry him on top of Nick Peak in Idaho. He was a poor starving graduate student, and did not have a ring. He had 3 small emeralds from Pakistan. They were flawed as most emeralds are and they were wrapped in a small brown piece of parchment paper. I quickly said yes (there was a hail storm moving in fast), he tucked the stones back into his pocket, and we started a wet cold descent from over 8000 ft.
Once back in Corvallis, I paid to have the larger emerald set into a ring. The flaw in the 1/2 carat stone was large enough that I had to encase it in the metal or risk having the stone crack. I wore it on my left hand until we got married, then transferred it to the right. My left knuckle is bigger than my right. Volleyball in middle school. I was forever fearful of losing it, so it lived mostly in the ring saver on the kitchen window sill. Jim felt sorry for it one night, and put it on his pinkie finger. He couldn’t get it off. We had it cut off, and resized to fit me. I rarely take it off. I did last night, and had Jasper take a picture. I did not realize how thin the setting has gotten. 2o years of rafting, climbing, and hand tools are having a toll.
Jim eventually got his ear pierced, I got a second hole in one ear, and we had the smaller emeralds made into a pair of earrings. He wore one, I wore the other. 2 weeks before Emerald was born, he asked if we could name her that…if she was a girl. It is and was the perfect name. She reminds her brother regularly that she is a precious gem, and he is only semi. Jim lost his earring. Dry suits are hard on earrings. The only time I EVER surprised Jim with a Christmas gift was the one where I replaced that earring and hid it in his usual request for hankies, underwear and socks. He cried.
Jim and I designed our own wedding bands. We copied a pattern of friendship from an old Navajo rug that is in my family. About 5 years ago, I got stung on the ring finger during a raft trip. I ignored it. 15 minutes later, I realized I needed to lose the ring, or lose my finger. It took 2 leathermans, one to pinch and one to file, to cut the ring off. I still have the burn scars on that finger, and the ring, where repaired, lost it’s pattern.
Shortly before Jim died, he asked that I keep our wedding bands together. We used to click them together 3 times as a silent way of saying, “I love you”. Of all of his stuff, it is the only thing he had a request for. As I was waiting for the funeral home folks to arrive, I removed his emerald earring, and his wedding band. It looked so lonely without him inside it. I removed my ring, and it fit perfectly inside. Reminds me of how we used to “just fit” when we snuggled.
So, now I have a 1/2 carat flawed emerald whose setting is beginning to fail. I have a quarter carat emerald earring and only one extra hole in my ear (which shares equal time with a semi-precious jasper). I have a lot of white gold. I think Jim’s 2 girls need some new jewelry. Any ideas??