Today I was busy emptying the little storage cubby on the side of the old Singer, hoping for more of the steel bobbins that pre-date the modern nasty plastic ones, and found instead a battered little leather purse, unseen and unused for many years. Inside were two rings, one of which was this, set with an old-fashioned sapphire and tiny diamond chips.
My Tante Mimi had given me this ring when I was about 11, and I lost it about 20 years ago, with long-lasting feelings of regret and guilt to follow. It had been her engagement ring after the war, when she had fallen in love with a Canadian stationed in Ghent, although she had given in to her serious misgivings (and the implacable opposition of her mother, my formidable Bonma) after she began to think about the change in lifestyle and culture she would have embarked upon after marriage.
He lived in an area of Canada where the distance between neighbours was measured in telegraph poles, in themselves huge distances apart, and her nearest neighbour would have been at least 7 telegraph poles away. A weekly train to the nearest city was the only opportunity to shop; for a city-bred girl with an interest in frocks and hats, this was too much, and the engagement was amicably ended, with Tante Mimi keeping the ring as a bittersweet memory.
She later went on to marry my Uncle Jerome, a widower, bringing up his three boys, and maintaining her closeness to my mother. We were intensely fond of Tante Mimi, who was jolly, good-natured and somewhat stout. She wore tailored corsetry, and hugging her was like embracing a well-upholstered sofa. I am so delighted to have found her ring, and even though it no longer fits as it did, and has to move one finger down, I shall wear it in fond recollection of the lovely, characterful and deeply affectionate aunt who gave it to a young niece all those years ago.
Goodness, that old sewing machine is packed with memories indeed...