Thursday, January 26, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Grandma's Jade Ring

Many, many years, when I was a little girl of only 5, my Grandma Bean removed a ring from her pinky finger, and placed it on my ring finger. She told me she wanted me to have the ring.

The ring is a tiny [size 4 I think!] pinky ring with silver band and scrolled setting. The stone, jade.

Grandma Beane was born on 03 Jun 1897 in Monroe County, West Virginia. The tiny hamlet of Centennial, which is no longer present, but lies between Gap Mills and Sweet Springs, on US Route 3, was her home. She was born to Stephen Ledford Faudree and his wife, Elizabeth Carnifix. She was the eighth born of ten children to the couple.

For years Mary sat with the elderly, performed housekeeping for pay, and even worked with the deaf and mute. Her education was limited, but she was taught much within the home, and could read and write quite well.

In 1935, she met John Monroe Bean, Sr. He was a widower, twice over. And he was the father of 12 children. The eldest was a year older than Mary, and the youngest had been living with an Aunt since his birth, six years earlier. On 01 Dec 1935 at the M.E. Church in Covington, Alleghany County, Virginia, John and Mary were wed. They set up a home in Waiteville of Monroe County, where John had resided most of his life.

By now, Mary was 38. And John was quite a bit her elder, at 69.

In 1937, Mary, now 40, had her first child, my father, Walter.  20 months later, shortly before her 42nd birthday, she had another son, Edsel. And four years later, her youngest son, Roy Edwin. By the time of the last child's birth, Mary was 46, and John was 77 years old.

In 1946 Roy Edwin died from a ruptured appendix at the tender age of 3. And in 1954, John died. He was a little over 87 years of age.

In 1964, Mary moved from her home in West Virginia, to join our family in Norfolk, Virginia. It was then that she gave me this ring.

For the next 10-1/2 years she was there for the laughter, tears, and joys of a young girl's growing up. She was even there for the growing pains of the loss of first love. She left us to join her ancestors on 01 January 1975.

The little ring is worn completely through in the back of the band. I wore it continuously until I gained weight as an adult and could wear it no longer. It now resides in a favorite old jewelry box, where my mementos hide until I can bear to look at them on occasion. [I don't know about others, but I become so melancholy when I look over these treasures of mine!] Each time I pull it out, I am reminded of the scent of vanilla as Grandma baked custard, or the crispy bite of chicken she had me "help" her fry. The baby powder she used on the canvas of her sneakers to keep them clean. The "White Shoulders" 'parfum' she dabbed behind her ears. The tissue she kept inside the hem of her sleeve. The dainty fringe of hair she had, all curled tightly. Her oddly gray eyes. And her smile.

Grandma never spoke an unkind or harsh word in my presence. As a matter of fact, she told me more than once... "If you can't say something nice about someone, then don't say anything at all." And I loved her, "It's better to be thought a fool, than open your mouth and be proven to be one!"

And she gave the absolute best hugs in the whole wide world.

When Grandma passed away, I was fifteen years old. I can remember the day she was buried was so cold, and the ground frozen so hard that they had to dynamite the grave open in order to bury her. As we stood on the hillside, and the minister said the final words at her graveside, I totally lost control. I collapsed in the arms of a dear old family friend, Albert Wiseman. Mr. Wiseman was a wonderful, grandfatherly man, and attended church with us. As a matter of fact, he was our Sunday School Superintendent. He and his wife, Elsie, wrapped their arms, and their coats about me. The three of us, literally tucked inside one another's coats on that windy day. Mr. Wiseman reached out a gnarled hand and wiped away the tears running down my cheeks with his handkerchief. "Cyndi, Grandmother wouldn't want you to cry, you know. She's having the best reunion she's ever had right now!"

Recently, when another genealogy researcher lost her mother, she posted on Facebook that her mother had joined her ancestors that morning. It was then I was reminded of Mr. Wiseman's words back in January of 1975.

While I plan to live for many, many years yet, I am so looking forward to that day, when I can step through the garden gates, and be met by my own ancestors for a family reunion!

Until then, I will occasionally pull out the little mementos and gather up the memories and call those dear family members near.

Do you have a family item that calls to mind your ancestors? If so, did you personally know that ancestor? What special memories do you have of them?


Lori said...

What a beautiful remembrance about your grandmother. It made me think about how much I miss both of my wonderful grandmothers; each one so special but very different from one another. I too look forward to someday having that sweet family reunion. It would be nice if you could have the ring resized and be able to wear it again.

Barbara Poole said...

Beautifully written, and a nice tribute. At a young age, I'm glad you knew to take care of your ring and it still means much to you...I think your grandmother knew it would. Thanks for sharing this nice story.