Book Excerpt: Mother’s Class Ring

Here’s an excerpt from my book!

When she found her mother’s class ring, she reacted physically, a jump in her heart, in her hand as she reached for it. It was in the jewelry box, tucked in the velvet folds like all the other rings, but Lainey had never seen it before. Her mother had never mentioned it, never told the story of the day she received it, never showed it to her girls in all the years since 1965. Lainey slipped it on her own finger, her right hand, a counterpart to the wedding ring on her left, gifts from the two people she’d built her life around, with and for.

She rubbed the translucent Mother of Pearl stone and the Newberry High School emblem set upon it. She felt daring, like she was looking where she shouldn’t. This ring had seen her mother through her first boyfriend, her first heartbreak, and, later, the night she snuck out in Grandpa’s truck and stripped all its gears.
The ring held on during meeting Lainey’s father, loving him and marrying him. Then been set aside sometime between raising children with him, fighting with him, caring for him and some four decades later, saying goodbye to him; some days wanting to and, finally, having to.

After the funeral, Lainey’s mother’s friend, Gayla, sent random memories of their childhood together, handwritten on a card bordered with angels, mailed to a daughter who didn’t know what to believe when it came to things like God and What’s Next. Lainey pondered the drawings of the angels as much as she did the stories.
Among the memories, Lainey’s favorite was of her mother burning her fingertips while throwing a firecracker out the window as she and Gayla drove through town. Lainey took that angel-flanked letter and read that line to herself a hundred times and then aloud to her husband, kids and, when she had to hear it again, the cat.

Never, never would she have guessed her mother so reckless, this mother of hers who made dinner at 6 every night and read books and flipped pancakes and planted tulips and wore no more makeup than powder and lipstick applied at the stoplight closest to the mall.

Lainey loved the idea that her mother hadn’t always been that way. That at one time she’d been carefree and careless, maybe 16 or 17, riding the backroads and main streets of her little hometown. Yet always a good girl to her parents, especially her father, who never did punish her for ruining that transmission.

Lainey felt the night air, filled with giggling and screeching over that firecracker, the sharp smell of it mixing with the July air as her mother fumbled to roll down the window before the fuse caught up to her hand. How she and Gayla must have rehashed that story, combing it and fluffing it until it was bigger and better — the burn marks hidden from their parents used proof to the others.

She realized her Grandpa must have paid more for that class ring than he made in a month driving and delivering the evening paper, one of the few jobs that could be done with a crippled leg. Lainey’s mother had never seen her father run or walk without a limp. Had she looked away when he struggled with the two steps up into the kitchen? Or had she not noticed, not knowing any different? Had she ever thought to ask what he saw and felt when the chain snapped on the load of timber, the trees rolling fast, reaching him before he could move?

Lainey had been told only one detail about the accident: her grandma, eight months pregnant, getting a call that her husband was lying on the basement floor of the hospital, where he would lie until he died. She could come, they told her, if she could find someone to sit with the kids.

Lainey imagined all that must have happened between that basement floor and his eventual return home. Her grandmother, who had never learned to drive, would be in the passenger seat, her brother at the wheel, headed to the little home behind the post office. She would look around the car and see the miracle of her husband in the backseat, and, in her lap, their newborn baby girl, Lainey’s mom.