The lingerie you save for special occasions. The jewellery that’s too good to wear every day. The perfume you keep ‘for best’.
You know what I’m talking about? Of course you do. I bet you smiled, at least to yourself, thinking about your own oh-so-precious life-trinkets that you’ve stored away, like fine wines laid down in a cellar, because you’re keeping them for best.
I get it. I’ve made that same mistake; assuming that some mythical special day was perpetually ahead of me, suspended in time, instead of recognising that I don’t need a special day to feel special. Today can be that day.
I learned this the hard way. As I was getting ready for work one morning when I lived in London’s Camden Town about a hundred years ago (or at least it feels that way), I paused to think about which piece of jewellery to wear. It still hurts; still makes me catch my breath to think that the snap decision I made whilst getting dressed that day can flood me with regret some 15 years on.
I vividly remember picking up my engagement ring. It’s burned into my memory because that was the last time I ever saw it. A beautiful Victorian garnet and diamond ring that my husband placed on my finger the day he proposed, out of the blue, atop a Scottish hill.
“Put it on, oh please, put it on,” I try to whisper back in time to Past Me. She doesn’t listen.
Instead, I popped the ring neatly back inside its box – a heart-shaped antique leather ring box, lined with silk and velvet, which my husband found in the same antique shop where he’d picked out the perfect ring for his proposal. I still remember precisely how I felt when I saw that tiny heart-shaped vessel full of love and promise. The only more powerful feeling I’ve encountered is that one that comes from knowing I’ll never hold that little artefact of our lives again.
Sure, it was just a box. Stuff is replaceable after all, and people are much more important than things. I know all the newly-burgled’s platitudes but they don’t help much when you’re wishing you could rewind and make a choice that would mean you’d still have the precious thing that’s ultimately, just a thing. (And people only say that about things that cannot be recovered.)
Beside it in that box, and this really hurts to write, was my Grandmother’s Edwardian engagement ring, given to me by my father when he broke the news of her death on our return from a month-long honeymoon in Ireland. Our wedding day was the last day I would ever see her, and her engagement ring – paper thin from being worn every day throughout decades of happy marriage – made me feel like she would always be part of me. Now it’s forever lost, and all (thieves aside) because I was saving it for best.
That night I came home from work to find the front door open, the flat ransacked, our haven spoiled. The first thing I looked for was my ring box. Gone. I looked and looked for weeks, praying it had fallen down behind my dresser or simply been mislaid, waiting to be found in my underwear drawer. Some prayers just can’t be answered.
I lost those priceless pieces of my past because I was saving them for best. I thought I was safeguarding them, protecting things that felt too good for daily use. The fear of losing or damaging them led, in part, to me losing them in ways I’d never thought to fear. I’d have those rings to pass on to my daughter if only I’d realised that I didn’t need to wait for a special occasion to warrant wearing the most precious things I owned.
But I hope whoever wears those rings today knows this. And I hope they bring her joy, every day, and that they’re not hidden away somewhere because she’s keeping them for best.
Please, don’t keep anything for best; that day isn’t guaranteed and it might never come. Life is too short to wait.
Drink from the crystal glasses you usually keep for fizz on New Year’s Eve. Use the eye-wateringly expensive perfume and put on the fancy pants on a standard rainy Tuesday. And, for the love of mercy, wear the jewellery just because it brings you joy.
I wear a new ring now, and I never take it off, but no item of jewellery could ever replace the treasures I lost that day. The only consolation is the lesson I learned in losing them; that today truly is the most special occasion there is.
Journalist & Editor, Heidi Scrimgeour