The ring belonged to his great-grandmother. It’s nothing compared to what people wear today. Practically a piece of wire. His great-grandfather gave it to her before they left Sweden. Melted down a little bit of gold the family had and made it for her.She was young and they had just been married and they were setting off to America with a few others they barely knew. He said his grandmother said there were two versions of the story. One was that he made it as a promise to her, as they were setting off on a new life together. Maybe to mark this great adventure. The other one was that the gold was in case they got desperate. In case they ran into trouble or were starving, they would have something to see them through. She said either could have been true, and depending on how things were with Lars’ grandfather, she could believe either one on any day. But it’s a tribute to them that they kept it. They worked hard, they were thrifty, and the Lord smiled down on them and gave them good harvests. Even through the worst years of the drought, they got enough to get through.
When I thought about that story, I always thought about how terrifying it would have been. That or else how faithful they were. Leaving everything they had known for a far-away place they couldn’t even imagine.
Although maybe it wouldn’t have been that terrifying, at least until you got into the steamer and it started pitching on the ocean. Maybe they imagined it as somewhere like Sweden, green and wooded and rolling. Maybe they thought they would hear their language. Maybe it isn’t as different as I’ve always thought. Life hasn’t turned out anything like I thought it would when I was nineteen and Lars Nilsson was asking me to the movies or the dances.
I keep wondering whether I should give it back. It’s from his family, after all. Maybe he should have it to pass down to another Nilsson that will follow him. Of course there won’t be any now. The thread has been broken, Lord knows. Who knows but I can’t imagine Josh ever taking it from him. And what would Lars do with it? If Laura appears again, he wouldn’t give it to her, would he? Would he let it become a commemoration of a terrible sin? That’s all it can be now — a sign that we couldn’t keep a covenant, keep a family, or that we’ve decided to accommodate a terrible sin. Just to pretend we’re still a happy family.
Sometimes I think I should just bury it.