Lord of the Rings

It was one of those slow afternoons in July, when there wasn’t much cleaning that needed doing, that the two maids and I for some reason got started looking at jewelry online. It’s not an area I have much interest in but the girls (Lek and Pong) were enjoying themselves, so I spent a good half hour showing the kinds of rings that could be purchased in the U.S. As we repeated our little ritual the following week, I noticed neither of them cared much for the fancier, pricier pieces — the ones with multiple diamonds inlaid amidst twisting bands. (Some of these looked to be a challenge just figuring out how to put them on.) Instead, they seemed to prefer small, dark colored stones such as green Amethyst or blue Sapphire. This gave me an idea: why not buy them something along these lines when I went back to the U.S. for my summer vacation?

This turned into a minor project as I began getting ready for my trip. Emailing an old friend of mine back in Seattle, I followed her advice and visited the websites of some local jewelers as well as larger retailers such as Walmart and Fred Meyer. I then bookmarked rings I thought might appeal to my special friends and showed these to them the next time I had my room cleaned. After some back-and-forth, eventually the list got narrowed down the above mentioned Amethyst and Sapphire stones with blue, green and red the favored colors, all with modest gold bands.

The correct size proved trickier to figure out. I did know that both Lek and Pong were a “17”, which presumably meant seventeen…millimeters?But this did not cleanly convert to a U.S. equivalent. I had to print a sheet of little circles representing ring sizes, then put their rings on top of it and try to line things up. It was an imperfect process but the best I could do, the alternative being to take one of them back to the U.S. with me and do a fitting at a jewelry store.

After arriving in Seattle, my friend and I went to a Fred Meyer north of the city where I showed the lady in the jewelry section pictures of what I was after. But none of them were in stock at that location. So I decided to take a gander at what they did have. Here I got lucky: within the first five minutes I had found a light purple Amethyst that, after some discussion with my friend and diligently looking over a few other pieces, became the choice. I ordered two in size 7 1/2, which were ready in a few days.

The big presentation came a month later, on my first day back in Bangkok. I sought out my two princesses after lunch and magnanimously gave them…a chocolate cookie each. Nothing was said about the rings, which were hidden below the cookies in small jewelry baggies. I simply stood back and waited for the discovery.

Lek found hers first and it became perhaps the only time I witnessed a Thai woman totally forget about finishing a chocolate treat. Pong soon followed and in a span of a few milliseconds both had pried their rings out and were trying them on. Since these were not a surprise, there were no squeals of delight or cartwheels, just broad smiles as they moved their hands back and forth in the light from the patio door, trying to catch a sparkle. Of course I received some grateful hugs, but the real pleasure was making a pair of Thai women happy with gifts as opposed to simply handing out a wad of thousand baht bills. For almost five years Lek and Pong have been changing my sheets, sweeping the floor and cleaning my toilet. They deserved something extra special.

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