For 30-plus years, J and I have used sterling silver napkin rings engraved on the inside with initials M.W.C. and the years 1893 and 1894. A silver bird is part of one ring; a silver squirrel is attached to the other. J has always used the bird; I, the squirrel.
J’s grandmother got the rings as a student at Martha Washington College, a school for upscale young women in western Virginia. Presumably, each student was given a new ring each year she attended the Martha. We have used the rings to allow us to reuse cloth napkins, a practice our daughter has found unsanitary. I always have been gratified and perhaps a tad self-congratulatory we were green before our time.
As J’s memory subsides to the Alzheimer’s onslaught, I never know what will spark remembrance and what will simply make J frustrated or sad.
Our friend, P, was over for dinner last week and noticed the napkin rings. She asked J about them and got the whole story. Then she did something remarkable: she went online, found a history of Martha Washington College and gave it to J as a Hannukah present.
J was so delighted she not only leafed through the book during dinner, she remembered it even after we had come home from the movies a couple hours later. That is truly remarkable.
Martha Washington College no longer exists, having closed its doors more than 80 years ago. Today the building that housed the college serves as an inn.
And yet those beautiful napkin rings and a book from a friend evoked so much for J. What could be a more perfect gift to someone with Alzheimer’s disease than a gate opener to memory?