Back when my mother-in-law and father-in-law were starting out, my father-in-law's first job hooked him up with some wonderful men and their wives, some of who are still in our lives today.
One of the couples included Helen Woodhull, a gifted artist whose medium, when I met her, was gold. Eighteen carat gold. Lovely, unusual pieces came from her hands and I am honored to wear two of them daily.
Mom (my mother-in-law for the purposes of the rest of this story) kept up the relationship with Helen and the others after my father-in-law died. Before we got engaged, Mike introduced me to Helen and I discovered what a wonderful person she was. Kind to people, animals, even to dust. (O.k., maybe not to dust.) Helen "adopted" strays -- both feline and human. After she passed away, we attended a memorial where we met some of her other strays. People who had stumbled across her and become an integral part of her life. Some, like us, periodically helped out with the business. Mike set up her first inventory system and over the years we both worked, sporadically, on her website. He did the coding, I did some critiquing and copy editing. All the work was done out of friendship and never for money. Instead, when we wanted to purchase a piece, either for me or for Mom, Helen gave us the "family" rate. The relationship continued and moved on to the next generation with Helen practically adopting my children as her own grandniece and nephew.
A couple of times a year we would go over to her place or she would come up to ours and we would share tea, hot chocolate and stories. Helen would show us her treasures -- antiques and beautiful things that she had acquired over the years -- and we would show our beautiful children and share our adventures. When Helen passed away, a mere six months before Mom did, we were some of the first to know. Mike had to get in to the website to put up the statement that you now see on the front page. Thinking about it now, more than two years after the fact, still brings tears to my eyes.
All of my "Helen" pieces have a story and all of the stories bring a tear to the eye. My first two pieces, however, are totally and completely woven into my life as a married woman.
On my right hand is my first Helen piece, my engagement ring for which Mike paid the "family rate." The second piece, a wedding gift from Helen, is my wedding band which is a bit unusual for all that it looks, at first glance, like a plain gold band. It has a narrow height that when paired with my engagement ring, looks just right. I do not usually wear the two together since I twice busted the solder point in the engagement ring. My boss, who has an eye for unusual jewelery, recently noticed my band and commented on it -- she is the only one to ever do so, that's how subtle it is. Mike also wears a Helen wedding band and it too, was her gift to him.
The few other pieces that I call my own were gifted to me by Mike or Helen at varying times over the years. Then there are the pieces that belonged to Mom. Some of them were given to her by her children and others were purchased by her, for herself. One or two may have been gifted by my father-in-law but my husband does not remember how they came in to her hands.
Well before her death, mom stated, unequivocally, that all of her jewelry was to go to my sister-in-law. Mom was a traditionalist that way. At some point, however, we were able to persuade her that my sister-in-law did not like Helen's pieces and they should therefore go to me and my brother-in-law's wife. With my sister-in-law's blessing, that is what happened, except that I wound up with all of the Helen pieces as my brother-in-law's wife insisted on it. Now I hold them dear and in keeping for Squidette and whomever Little Squid should eventually hook up with.
In the meantime, Mom's pieces form the basis of my Dragon Lady ensemble. When I know that I have to be Strong, I switch my engagement ring to my left hand, put on Mom's "Daisy" ring and Stag earrings, add my own Lion and Lamb necklace (to remind me to be kind) and usually my own bracelet. (Mom's bracelet is a little dressy to be Dragon-esque.) I think of these pieces as my armor against the idiots of the world who cow down to the well assembled. I think Helen would be amused that I use the pieces, some based on ancient armor, to gird my loins against those that might hurt those I love.