One of my parents’ favorite things to do in the years before Mom grew too frail with Parkinson’s Disease was walk. St. Simon’s Island, (Go Dawgs!) Georgia offered adventure on every outing – on their familiar street routes through the Spanish moss oak-draped neighborhoods, in the ballpark where I played softball as a child, on the sidewalks of the village and down the pier where our mother taught my brother and me how to crab, and along the beaches.
They found things – mostly coins and an occasional dollar bill, but sometimes they found tourists’ random belongings, too. Mom had a knack for such fortuitous finds- and Dad still takes morning sweeps of the island to see what it’s offering up for grabs these days, no doubt shadowed by her guiding presence. Just as every islander knows, if you walk the beach on an outgoing tide early in the morning, there’s no telling what you might discover that has washed up on shore.
On my 49th birthday in July 2015, my parents gave me a silver St. Simon’s Island bracelet from the St. Simon’s Jewelry Company. It has two intertwining S letters, and whether you’re a native islander or visit St. Simon’s Island for vacation, these bracelets are all the rage. They also have rings, earrings, and pendants to match, but the bracelets are by far the most popular pieces.
I still remember opening my gift at the kitchen table. It came in a navy blue box with silver lettering – St. Simon’s Jewelry Co. It fit perfectly, even on my bigger-boned wrist – the one I broke right there in the neighborhood back in third grade when I fell off a ladder climbing up to the roof of Candy Pruitt’s house. How could a simple silver bracelet evoke such rich memories of the places of my childhood – the trees, the beaches, Neptune Park, church…..back when the world was a safer, simpler place? I carry the island with me every time I wear it. Oh, how I’ve treasured it from the moment I first slipped it on – even before I knew it would be the last birthday gift in my mother’s lifetime.
Then, sometime in the late summer of 2015 as she and Dad were walking on the beach one morning, Mom found a St. Simon’s ring washed up on the shore.
“We’ll give it to Kim,” she told Dad, excited about her serendipitous find, “to match her bracelet!”
She put the ring in a top chest drawer and asked Dad to help her remember to give it to me the next time I came. Since she suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, she was vigilant about sharing her wishes with Dad when she was fully present in the moment so that she could rest assured that he knew what to do when her tomorrows stopped coming.
But her disease progressed much more quickly in the final stages than any of us had predicted. Though I made the five hour trip home several times in the months before she died, the ring was the last thing on Dad’s mind, and Mom was rarely cognizant of much in her final months. She died in December as we held hands around her bed in the very room where the ring still rested in the drawer.
A few months after her funeral, Dad came for a visit. I could tell he had something on his mind.
“I’m not suggesting anything here,” he began, taking the silver ring out of his pocket and placing it on the kitchen counter. He stopped short of finishing his sentence, wringing his hands, wiping his brow, and pausing for a moment before he continued.
“I don’t know how to explain this, Kim, but your mom put this ring in a drawer and asked me to help her remember to give it to you. I haven’t thought of this ring in months, but as I was walking up her wheelchair ramp in the garage, I looked down – – and there it was, right in the middle of the ramp.”
Chill bumps ran across my shoulders. She’d known he was coming to visit me, and she worked from the other side to help him remember to bring the ring. Our eyes misty with tears, I took the ring and placed it on my finger to find it was a perfect fit. Dad shared the story of their walk on the beach the morning she’d found it, how she was so thrilled that I’d have a ring to match the bracelet.
Even more miraculous, perhaps, is that most of my jewelry was stolen in 2021, and only a few pieces remained – among them, my cherished St. Simon’s bracelet and ring.
I’m not suggesting anything here…..but it wouldn’t surprise me if those pieces had actually been among the stolen items…….and that somehow they’d made yet another mysterious, unexplainable journey home to me.
At least that’s what I choose to believe.