“Do you have a trustworthy jeweler in India?” Linda Carroll asks me.
That question is not as odd as it might seem. I have made two trips to India in the last last year and she knew I was getting ready to leave again. Linda also knew that, while no bling princess, I do like my jewelry.
“Yes,” I answered warily, afraid of being given orders for jewels. “I know a good jeweler in Jodhpur.”
“My mother’s ring needs work and I’m terrified of something happening to it. Can you take it and get it repaired?” Linda explained that her parents had the ring made 50 years ago in Peru while her father was working at an international school there. “It was a huge splurge for them.” Linda didn’t have to tell me that both her mother and her husband had passed away in the last couple of years, and she was deep in the care of her father, who was ninety years old with a whole menu of health problems.
Linda was the first person outside of my family that I told about my separation, and a key member of the Karen Sanity Committee who saw me through my divorce. Laurie, Patrice, and Linda took care of me—“can you get her something to eat something? I’ll take her to a movie, and what about a walk…do you think she’ll go for a walk?” For the first nine months or so I was a basket case and Linda held my hand the whole time. We saw a lot of movies then, offbeat movies, foreign movies, screenings, Tuesday $5 specials, Linda and I were movie buddies for all of them. Her husband had been a director and Linda ran their production company.
“One of the stones in the ring is broken and we took one out to put into Nikki’s wedding ring,” said Linda, “so those need fixing. Plus I want it sized so I can wear it. I can send it to you and of course I’ll pay for—“
“Sure, I can do that.”
Two days later Linda’s ring shows up, immaculately packaged in a baby canister, with a Post-it diagram of how the stones are a to be aligned. Linda was a prop mistress in a former incarnation and knows how to manage the details of life.
She’d also been checking in with me every few hours—“is it there yet?”– so I was relieved when it arrived. Linda loaded WhatsApp on her phone so that we could more easily communicate while I was away.
This is the kind of favor I like. It didn’t feel like an inconvenience to me and it would be an immense benefit to her.
I tucked the ring container between my toothbrush and tweezers.
At Gems and Art Palace in Jodhpur I met with Manish—“Micky”—Singhvi. He looked at the ring and the diagram. Neither of us was exactly sure which way was up. “I’ll do the repair right away,” said Micky, “so there will be plenty of time if we need to redo it, or she wants changes.”
I gave Linda “ring reports” in real time. She always wrote right back even if the time was weird for her. She is also one of the people who appreciated my pictures of camels and turbans and cows in the middle of the road and commented on the eye clinic I was organizing.
Sure enough Micky called a couple days later that the ring was done. I waved away the other pieces he was trying to sell me and sent off pictures of the ring. Mickey also had included the old broken stones in the little baggie he returned to me. I was a little surprised that Linda didn’t respond right away, but with the 12 1/2 hour time difference you never really know. I told Micky the story of the ring and why it mattered so much. I was really surprised not to hear from her the next day either. Two days later her message read:
“Thanks so much Karen, I’m really excited about it. I’m in Seattle right now. My father passed away unexpectedly but I got here before he died.”
I checked to make sure the ring was safe. It would surely mean even more now. I tried to think of a piece of jewelry that meant so much to me. While I was married maybe my wedding ring. Now I’m not even exactly sure where it is.
As I returned home to Northern California, Linda was back to her on-it mode of communication. “What day will you get it in the mail? I’ll get you a mailing label so you don’t have to do anything, I just need to know what day you’ll put it in the mail.”
“Monday?” My feet were barely on the ground. There’s always so much to do when I get home. “Monday. I’ll do it Monday.”
I printed out the label and slipped the ring into a manila envelope, relieved to have it out of my hands.
Six days later Linda texted me. “Still haven’t received ring. Can you let me know what kind of packaging you used and if you used the USPS shipping label I sent?” She was out of town, for yet another funeral. She’d gotten dreaded phone calls on two consecutive Sundays at 5:30 a.m. First her father, then her husband’s best friend. “Maybe the ring already came,” she wrote, “I was looking for USPS priority mail envelope. I left at 4:30 a.m. and there was a yellow envelope outside my door and I just put it inside in the rush to get to my Uber.” Another couple of days and she questioned me again about the dimensions of the envelope. “Yes, 9×12 envelope.”
“It was delivered LAST TUESDAY,” she wrote, having checked tracking information. “I think the housekeeper threw it away, thinking the envelope was empty. Trash is emptied every day at our units. I’m just heartsick. At least I have the pictures you sent. I suppose this is a lesson in detachment…..”
Linda was sobbing when I called. “It’s just so hard with all of these deaths stacking up. And there’s almost nothing of my mother’s that I have!”
“There was something weird about the mailing label,” I said. “I was exhausted when I printed it, but I noticed your old street was the return address. I thought you’d gotten some sort of mail delivery service. Let me dig through emails and see if I can find if I can find the label.”
“You think there’s a chance? I can go to the old house and have a look.”
“Let me find the mailing label.”
Good thing I never empty my email.
Linda’s ring was sent to:
PO Box 230
Schererville, IN 46375-0230
Truly. Her mother’s ring had gone to Indiana. Loopy is a small company that makes iPhone cases with little loops on the back. I found the phone number for her to call. The mailing label must have been in a queue from a previous transaction.
Three days later Linda had her ring.
Tried to think of where the lesson is here. Don’t take jewelry to India for repair? Don’t print out labels while jet lagged? Grief impairs judgement? We know that.
I think it’s more that sometimes things really do work out when friends help each other. I’m less interested now in casual let’s-do-lunch friendships, and more interested in the I’ll-sit-with-you- no-matter-what friendships. It could be a relationship crisis. Or it could be a lost ring. Or it could be just a bad day. Whatever it is, I’m happy to have friends I can can call.
And they’ve got my number too.