Modern Love: I think you found my mother's ring

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 1:08pm

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Design by Jonathan Walsh

I was in a witchy mood on Halloween. It was raining, and I was walking while listening to the Modern Love podcast when I saw something glittering in a puddle. It was an engagement ring.

A sad Titanic, its stone was half-sunken in mud and pointed up like the bow of a ship. Instead of a single, perfect circle, the gold band had an arm split off that held the gem in its claws. I rescued it from the water in hopes it held a story.

I brought it to Noodles & Company to take a better look and ordered a drink. The cashier hesitated. “I know you just got a drink, but I still have to put in a name for the order. Got a fake name?”

I said, “Witch.”

She laughed. “OK, Witch, happy Halloween.” Then, she winked.

Or maybe I’m just including the wink to make this story sound more witchy. Over the past year, a lot of people have told me I have a “witchy vibe,” and I’ve secretly liked this new identity — it’s special, supernatural and makes my strange stories seem like more than just coincidences.

I do have a lot of witchy stories. An artist once approached me in a Trader Joe’s parking lot and gave me a photo identical to one my cousin showed me that morning. My clock stopped the moment my great-grandmother passed away. My grandfather opened his eyes in the hospital when I touched him. I experienced a one-person hail storm on a mountain in Santa Fe. While telling these stories to a friend, the petals on a flower behind me fell to the ground. 

I was convinced this ring was just another witchy thing that happened to me — and I needed to know the story. 

I posted an ad in the Ladies of UofM Facebook group and plenty of people commented telling me to turn it in to the police. I became more defensive with every comment — I didn’t trust the police to get the ring back to the owner. I felt eerily attached to it, like I owed something to the ring.

I wore the ring for the rest of the night.

***

The next day, I received a message from someone named Carey. We had no mutual friends. 

“Hi Hannah!” her message read. “I lost my mom's ring 2 days ago and was wondering if you found it? It's a simple design with a white sapphire. I'm looking to see if I have a pic of it somewhere!”

I sent the photo before she could describe it to me. Within minutes, Carey confirmed the ring was hers and insisted on bringing me a gift. Instead, I asked her to bring me the story. 

We met a few days later, and she told me the ring’s saga. In 1985, her father visited India from the U.S. to see his family, and while he was there, he was introduced to over 25 women to marry. He fell for Carey’s mother and sent her love poems for a year, including the ring in his final poem to propose.

Carey’s mother came to the U.S. the following year. Since then, Carey’s father has bought her mother plenty of rings, so she no longer wears the one I found.

The two of us exchanged more stories and ended up talking for two hours — I learned Carey is also a writer, and we discussed our hopes to make systemic change through journalism. We decided to meet again and continued messaging on Facebook.

I asked Carey to tell me more about her mother later that week. She responded that her mother is a witch; apparently, the woman has flat-lined twice and her blood sugar is regularly at a level that would kill a normal person. Carey needed some of her mother’s luck for an important meeting and borrowed the ring without asking permission. In the end, she never got to use its magic. The ring was lost by the time she arrived.

***

While writing this piece, I wanted it so badly to prove that witches are real, that I’m a witch, that Carey’s mother is a witch, and why not Carey, too? I told the story to my partner, and he simply responded, “Writers are witches.”

Then it hit me: He’s right. I’m not a witch, I’m a writer. Not only that, this is a Modern Love column and I'm a modern love writer, which means I know there are stories happening all the time — we just need to ask ourselves the right questions. Instead of turning in the ring to the police, or keeping it, or even accepting whatever coffee or dinner Carey wanted to give me as a reward, I asked about her story because I knew there was one.

I figured it was the work of mysterious magic that Carey and I had met and held many of the same thoughts on systemic issues and activism. Our nearly-two-hour discussion touched on ideas also covered by adrienne marie brown, a self-proclaimed witch and Detroit writer whose theory of “emergent strategy” shows how small systems incite larger-scale change. In other words, if more people found connections like how Carey and I found each other, these tiny interactions will multiply to create a larger movement.

brown cites fractals in this argument, which are small, repeated patterns that create larger systems (think the designs of snowflakes or seashells). Fractals appear in math, too, with the “magical” Fibonacci Sequence where each number is the sum of the two numbers before it. When squares are created using these numbers as the base and height, they stack on top of each other perfectly to create a symbol called the Golden Ratio.

You may have seen the Golden Ratio before — it looks like a spiral, or a shell opening up. It also sort of looks like Carey’s mother’s gold ring, with the stone being held on an arm separate from the band.

But then again, maybe that’s just me prescribing witchiness to the situation.

I’m not sure why I was the person who picked up Carey’s ring after it had been lying in a puddle for almost two days. Part of me wants to think there’s a reason we were meant to meet and connect, to discuss systems of change when we were engaging in them all along. Another part of me believes these stories could happen a lot more if we knew where to look. Maybe it’s witchcraft, or maybe it’s part of a larger pattern. Maybe it’s even love.

Or maybe those are all the same thing.