It was the summer of 1973 when my family pulled into the quaint little town of Ouray, Colorado. Nestled in a valley between two mountains, it was a picture postcard of a Christmas town on summer retreat. I remember how charmed I was by all the little trinket shops that dotted the streets. It was there, in one of those shops, that my father bought me the one - and only - present he has ever given to me.
My mother must have been with some of my brothers and sisters in another store, and I don't recall if anyone else from our family was there with Dad and me. It doesn't really matter. What I do remember is that he let me pick something out from the glass case which displayed all kinds of wonderful things to catch a little girl's eye. It was a treat to be allowed this extravagance. It was a gift to receive it from my father.
After careful thought and consideration, I selected a little silver ring made of loops that wove around my finger. At the top of each loop was a small silver bead, not unlike the silver candies we decorated our sugar cookies with at Christmastime. I loved it and cherished it, and when we got home....I lost it.
It was out on the pavement beside the gymnasium at our school where we used to play dodge ball and tag when I first noticed I'd lost it. I don't remember the precise moment when it disappeared from my finger, only that it was gone and I was horrified. I'm sure that it only cost a few dollars, but the sentiment behind it was priceless. I hadn't lost a ring. I had lost a treasure.
Growing up, my mother always did the shopping and every Christmas and birthday was complete with a wonderful present or two from both of my parents. But to this day, that beaded silver ring, purchased when I was just 11, is still the only present my father has ever truly given me.
Though presents were a twice a year occasion, the intangibles were daily gifts that I received from my father. I learned and grew from watching the great man that he is. He taught me much about humility and respect, honor, honest and integrity. He showed me how to be kind towards others, how to be a loving, respectful and respected parent and to have faith both in God and one another. Those things mean so much more than a little silver ring. But I still want it back.
For years, I went to the place where I believed I had lost it and spent much time searching through the rocks and grass for a hint of its sparkle. But I never found it. I'd like to think that another little girl came across it during her play and that it adorns her finger as it once did mine. Perhaps she too, can feel the comfort of my father's love.
I ponder other pretty rings I have worn since: the birthstone my mother bought me when I stopped (briefly) biting my fingernails; an opal that belonged to my grandmother; a fancy diamond ring won from a contest; assorted gems and gold bands. But there is still a special place in my memory and my heart for that swirl of beaded silver, just as there is that special place reserved only for my father.
Other jewelry has been lost or removed over the years, but it only hurt when I lost that little ring. Perhaps it has to do with unconditional love and feeling cherished and warm, and in the midst of a large family, special.
One simple present from my father didn't tell me that he loved me. It simply confirmed the fact that I already knew he did.