There are some presents in life we treasure. Mine was a gold signet ring that my mother bought me for my twenty-first birthday. It was a July day in Sydney when I took it off and put it into my shirt pocket, forgetting I had done so before taking my clothes to the laundry. Panic set in when I realised my mistake and this only intensified as I frantically searched the returned laundry bag but to no avail. I sped back with great haste to the launderette, close to Bondi Beach – oblivious to the nearby surfers and people strolling along the sands.
The man in the launderette had an unforgettable appearance. He was in his fifties with a face very under-used for smiling. Apart from his surly countenance he had a hunched posture wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickens novel. But his most pertinent feature was his overgrown eyebrows, coupled with wisps of hair growing from his ears. How I wanted him to tell me that he had found my ring. His honesty would have made amends for his appearance. I may even like him. It wouldn’t matter if he never smiled. And I wouldn’t have to sadden my mother by telling her I had lost it.
My mother had accompanied me to the jewellers in Ballaghadereen in County Roscommon to select the ring the previous December. It had been a bitterly cold day with heavy sleet showers but this hadn’t deterred us from driving the ten miles through the rugged countryside, passing barren fields and bog land with withered heather presenting itself as scenery en-route. After choosing the ring, the jeweller inscribed it with my initials. I loved that ring. It was perfect and came complete with a little pink box.
The fresh smell of laundry lingered in the air as I opened the door, but its soothing smell was quickly replaced with disappointment. `No, I didn’t find any ring,’ the man said, but I was instantly struck with a gut feeling that he was lying. There was something in his voice and in the way he looked at me that made me disbelieve him. It is strange when we are sometimes faced by a lie that we skirt around it, excusing liars by shielding them from our embarrassment but end up colluding with them. In my case I asked him to take another look, but the search of the washing machines proved worthless.
I didn’t tell my mother I had lost the ring until I returned to Ireland the following year. She said we would have to go and get a replacement but we never got around to doing this. I kept the pink box for ten years before discarding it as it reminded me of the ring every time I saw it. Irish people are very philosophical about loss. We frequently say, ‘Ah sure let all our all bad luck go with it,’ when we lose something. With this in mind, I hope that at least some of my bad luck went with the ring when we parted company in Sydney all those years ago.
Published in Our Voices – Our Words and Ireland’s Eye