A. I typed that letter with the little finger of my left hand. Some people call that finger a ‘pinkie’ as though fondly recalling a minor Communist agitator one might once have been half-related to. I prefer to give the digit its full title, even if it is the smallest in stature. As it loyally presses the ‘a’ and ‘z’ keys on my QWERTY keyboard, my little finger deserves it. Little fingers get overlooked, and in this way, they remind me of how I felt as the youngest child in a family of four. It’s easy to forget or make fun of the smallest one. And yet, without it, the whole would be irreparably imbalanced.
Yes, I cherish my little finger. It bears the notable distinction of being the only finger on which I permanently wear a ring. There was a brief and misguided interlude of three years when I married the wrong person and wore an engagement sapphire and a platinum wedding band on my fourth finger. The signet ring has outlasted all other pretenders.
"There was a brief and misguided interlude of three years when I married the wrong person and wore an engagement sapphire and a platinum wedding band on my fourth finger. The signet ring has outlasted all other pretenders"
I was given it by my mother on my 18th birthday: a delicate gold loop meeting in an oval shape that bore the crest of my long-ago Swiss ancestors. I had no idea what the crest meant, and still don’t, but it depicts five circles above three Toblerone-shaped mountains and on top of that, a feathery fleur de lis. The ring’s meaning, for me, lies in the fact that it connects me to my mother.
For as long as I can remember, she has worn her own version of the same ring. As a child, I would admire how elegant it looked on her hand, the gold burnished through years of washing, cooking, hair-cutting, nametape-sewing and hand-holding, all of which is another way of saying "love".
"As a child, I would admire how elegant it looked on her hand, the gold burnished through years of washing, cooking, hair-cutting, nametape-sewing and hand-holding, all of which is another way of saying ‘love’"
The ring, for me, was integral to my mother’s kindness and practicality. It became synonymous with her. I longed to be worthy of it.
Now both my sister and I have our own versions. We wore them long before signet rings became fashionable again. These days if I’m asked by a younger woman, "Where did you get your ring?" I have to break it to her that it isn’t readily available on the high street.
The ring I wear now is a replacement. The original was stolen while I was on holiday in an Umbrian villa. Thieves broke into the bedroom while I lay by the pool. They took my passport, my watch and the ring. The disappearance of the passport was an administrative nightmare but it was the absence of the ring which caused me the most distress.
My mother quietly set about the business of getting a new one designed at a London jeweller, and gave it to me, without fanfare or expectation, some months later. She was taking care of me as she had done all those years before. Once again, I slipped the pure expression of her love onto my little finger. It felt so right to have it back.
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS: Author portrait credit to Jenny Smith Photography