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Small gifts spark a large sense of pride

When I was a little girl, I had a favorite ritual with my father. Before my mother, Rose Beebe, celebrated her birthday, we'd go to the jewelry store and he would let me select something sparkly for her.

I couldn't wait until she opened her special gift so I could see her reaction to the ring or necklace I'd chosen.

She'd always gasp with glee, immediately put it on and admire it the rest of the day.

I was recently reminded of this when I was shopping with my daughter, Jazlyn, 17. We came across some gaudy faux cocktail rings in every style and color imaginable: bright flower shapes, dazzling diamond formations, and sapphire, ruby and emerald pieces.

When we found out the rings were $1 each, we went on a treasure hunt to bring some bling to my mom, Rose, 87, and her friends at Legacy Heights Memory Care.

We carefully amassed an exquisite collection to present to these deserving ladies, curious to discover what their reaction would be. Would they really care? Would some even remember what a ring was?

Jazlyn and I excitedly went to bestow our gifts. When presented with the rings, it was apparent these women still had discriminating tastes.

Each would "ooh" and "ah" and carefully look over the rings and pick the one that resonated the most with her.

Whether the rings slid over fingers that had endured a lifetime of hard work or fingers that were crooked from arthritis, the reaction was always the same: pure awe and excitement.

Jazlyn and I fought back tears as we watched each grateful lady select her new prized possession.

Mom was immediately drawn to a red poinsettia ring and a large, rectangular sapphire and diamond one. When I placed them on her fingers, her reaction was just as it had been when I was a little girl - she was mesmerized with her new gems.

"Isn't this pretty with all that glitter on it?" she said as she held her hand in front of her face. "This has got sunshine in it."

Another woman sat up straighter in her chair after putting on her new bauble. She said it made her feel "all dressed up and worth a lot."

We approached a lady who uses a wheelchair and hadn't spoken in several months, not knowing if she'd remember what to do with a ring. She quickly lit up and pointed to a salmon-colored ring that perfectly matched her outfit. Was it a coincidence or did she really know what she was doing?

It was difficult for a few ladies to accept our gift. They would try a ring on, marvel at it and then hand it back. They couldn't believe they could keep the rings. Some of the women rarely have anyone visit them and seldom receive presents, so it was gratifying to see them experience such happiness.

As the ladies took ownership of their rings, they seemed to instantly shift into a more feminine state of being. Perhaps a distant memory was stoked that allowed them to feel soft and ladylike.

I thought perhaps after that day our friends would take off their rings and forget about them, but every time we return they still wear them proudly.

Sometimes I'll notice a lady fondly gaze at her ring, adjust it until it's just right and then place her hand back on her lap with a smile and a sense of pride.

Perhaps diamonds really are a girl's best friend.

Editor's note: In Lisa Moore's column, "Generations," she writes about the challenges and healing she experiences as a member of the Sandwich Generation: those caring for a parent and a child.