by Sherry Stocking Kline
November 29, 2009
How is it that something becomes an heirloom? Is it the value of the object, the age of the object, or the love inside the object and its history?
One birthday present that stands out is one that I still have. One that is destined to become a hand-me-down heirloom. And one that I still enjoy.
We were in South Dakota, my mom, dad, and I. It would be our last vacation with my dad, but we didn’t know that then, or at least I didn’t.
We had been to Minnesota to visit family, my Great-Aunt May Breneman Jones Willey, her son Kenneth Jones and his wife, Lois, and their family, Lawrence, Lynn, Patty, Charles, and Kenny, and we were coming back down through South Dakota, seeing the sights.
My Parents Laughed…
We visited the “dead Presidents” (Mt Rushmore) which was very impressive, went to the Passion Play (the re-enactment of Christ’s life and crucifixion), and I met a girl at the motel that night who was about my age, (soon to be eleven years old) and what was so impressive was this girl had her life already mapped out.
She told me who she was going to marry and that they were going to raise horses together. I was so impressed (Here I was at eleven still waffling between being a jockey or an archeologist!) and hadn’t even thought yet about who I would marry and what WE would do that I told my folks all about the girl I met on the motel swing set who already knew who she was going to marry.
My parents laughed….
Mom and I Huddled Inside the Car…
The next day we traveled through the National Park where a herd of several hundred buffalo thundered across the road in front of the car right in front of us. My mom and huddled inside the car while my dad, unafraid, in typical guy “I ain’t afraid of nothin’” fashion stood outside the car and watched.
Before we came home dad took Mom and I to the Black Hills Gold Jewelry store where the jewelry was actually being made. Dad had promised Mom that when they went to where the Black Hills gold jewelry was made he would buy her a set. So we went into the store where we could see people working on the jewelry.
It took them quite awhile, looking at one necklace and then another. Mom tried on one set, and then another and I kept busy watching the workers, peering into the jewelry cases, and watching the necklace and earring fashion show between Mom and Dad.
But I Had My Sights Set on a Cowboy Hat…
Finally, they had the perfect set for Mom. Then they turned to me. They wanted to buy me a ring for my birthday.
Uh, Oh. My little soon-to-be eleven year old heart had its sights set on a cowboy hat. (Did I mention that I was a tomboy?) I just hadn’t decided if I wanted it to be black hat like the bad guys or a white hat like Roy Rogers yet, but that’s what I wanted right then, a cowboy hat.
I didn’t have the horse to go with it, but I wanted that, too. Mom and dad definitely had other plans.
They wanted me (a tomboy) to pick something elegant…
So we spent some time picking out a ring. They really wanted me to get something fancy, something a little ‘elegant’. I wasn’t then, nor am I now, ‘elegant.’
I remember them saying, “Look how much longer this ring makes your fingers look.”
I didn’t think a ring was going to help my fingers look long and ladylike too much. My fingers were short and stubby then and they’re short and stubby now.
I picked out a simple gold band with the Black Hills Gold signature pink and gold leaves on it. Simple lines. Very similar to a wedding band, but I liked it. After some time spent showing me lots of fancier rings to try to get me to pick out something larger, longer, and more elegant, they gave in and let me get the one I liked.
They chose it for one of my larger fingers, hoping I could wear it when I was grown, and they chose wisely there. I can still wear it.
It looks almost exactly like this one, except it has more than 30 years of wear. It’s plain and simple, perfect for my size 4 1/2 to 5 short little fingers. It’s still my favorite.
A little over a year later, my father was gone…
My father was only 50 when he passed away. Just a few years later, heart by-passes became standard practice, but they weren’t then.
I wonder now, if he somehow knew, that his time was getting short, and he wanted us to have these special reminders of him.
Years later, I can look at the Black Hills gold ring that we picked out that day, and remember the whole vacation, the people we met, the good times we had, and feel the love of my parents surrounding me.
12-01-09 Author’s note: After posting this article, I found the ring that was nearly like mine, and so have updated the photograph, and added the name of the ring’s creator. My dad didn’t know he was beginning a new family tradition between myself, my mother, and my children that day, but he did.
I do think he may have known his time was getting shorter as by that time he had had heart disease for more than ten years and wanted us to have something we could remember him by. My mother, treasuring that memory purchased a cross necklace and another ring at different times in my life, all with that first gift in mind.