I sat next to a frail, elegant woman and noticed the heavy, man-sized ring on her index finger. “Was that your husband’s ring?” I asked. She nodded, and showed me the chain around her neck. “This was my mother’s,” she said.“I understand,” I told her. “I wear my mom’s wedding ring.”
Many of us have things from loved ones – dishes, furniture, artwork, needle points, jewelry, clothing. But it is this last group of items — things we wear — that most intrigues me. These represent the private, personal connections we indulge in. Often, the items we wear are jewelry; rings are the most common. When my mother first died, I wore her wedding ring on a chain around my neck. Eventually, I put it away. One day, years later, I took off my wedding band and quietly put hers on my finger instead. I’ve worn it ever since. It just felt right.
I’m not alone, I know. One friend wears his mother’s wedding ring on his pinky finger. Another wears her mother’s bracelet. She says she feels like she is visiting with her mother when she has it on. Sometimes, the item represents an event of special significance. One friend said of a ring her mother gave her, “I rarely take it off because it is the very last ‘thing’ that she ever gave me and I feel as though a piece of her is always with me.” Sometimes the memories are less painful; one friend wears earings she gave her mother as a gift because she remembers shopping for them together.
The items we wear are not always jewelry. Some are clothes. On the outside, they appear ordinary. One friend wears her mother’s Mickey Mouse shirt. Another friend thinks of his dad when he wears his father’s golf shirts. I wear two tops that belonged to my mother-in-law. They are from Chicos, and I like them. But they are more than just clothes. Every time I wear them, I think, “Today I am wearing Bubbie’s shirt.”
Often, there is no single point in time when the item becomes special. It belonged to someone you loved, they died, and you decide to wear it, perhaps as a way to honor them, perhaps as a way to remember them, but mostly as a way to keep them close.
What I find so intriguing, what makes this appeal to me so much, is that it is all very personal and private. No one knows, when they look at my hand, that this is my mom’s wedding ring, and I like it that way. I covet our special relationship. When things have been part of someone else for so long, and they become part of your daily life as well, there is a connection, a continuity, a closeness, that is comforting. And perhaps that is the gift we receive from items we wear that belonged to people we loved. They comfort us.
What do you wear that belonged to someone you loved, and why do you wear it?