In 1968 Franco Zeffirelli produced a version of Shakespeare's "Romeo And Juliet." Because of one very tame bit of partial nudity, the movie rating prevented me from seeing it without adult accompaniment, but I managed to sneak in on my own.
That movie stunned me. It hit me right at the age when notions of impossible romance, the nobility of sacrifice in the name of love, and a host of other pre-adolescent emotions were making a precocious appearance. I was also at a point where my developing aesthetic sensibilities were drinking in every sight, sound, texture and aroma with appallingly intense hunger. I think everyone goes through that stage. If deprived of input, we might become dull, dronish adults. If given moderate stimulation, we might simply and safely develop distinct interests and hobbies. If given all our souls and minds crave at the precisely right impressionable moment, perhaps the result is someone who will revel in all life offers and channel the overflow into a return gift, an idea, a vision, a work of art, a book...something from the beauty that fed them when they hungered.
Many, many years and miles later I was working as a disc jockey in a small seaside town. One rainy afternoon I was paging through a gift catalog from the Smithsonian Institute, enjoying the photography in a detached sort of mood, when I turned the page and saw this ring, four rich, red garnets set in 14K gold. Every nuance of dormant emotion once awakened by that Zeffirelli masterpiece surged powerfully forward once again.
"Juliet's gown," I whispered, remembering the extravagant red and gold costume encrusted with faux gems, intricately detailed, and purported to weigh in excess of 80 pounds.
I mailed in a check and three weeks later, the ring was mine.
For years I wore it more often than any other, in remembrance of the tumultuous experience of seeing that then-forbidden movie and all the emotions and appreciation it engendered, along with a lifetime love of Shakespeare and elaborate costumes.
In addition, I tend to recall what jewelry I was wearing at emotional landmarks.
Sadly, it was this ring that adorned my hand the night I had to part with a beloved pet. Pets are safe. They love us without reservation or judgment. So we let them walk deeply into our hearts more readily than our fellow humans. The pain of loss can be deeper and last longer than we care to admit...at least to those other humans.
So now I preserve this ring lovingly, carefully. And it seems fitting that it is tied to a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love and tragedy. I keep to myself whether I mean the movie or the loss of the pet-of-a-lifetime.
Despite sorrow's endless ache, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.