Keepsake ring

In Attire
Finnish keepsake ring
Finnish keepsake ring

The ring came to me from my mom. She received it from her grandma, Hilma, who emigrated from Finland to the Iron Range of Minnesota in 1914. Hilma’s husband Isak had emigrated earlier, found a job in the mines, then Hilma and their sons joined him. In 1921, they moved to Lake Kabetogama, buying land to farm. This area is not easy to farm, being near the Canadian border. Only after I traveled to Finland did I understand why they chose to live so far north. The landscape must have felt like home, with birch and pine forests and lakes with rocky shores. The ring always has intrigued me. Its gold plaque is engraved with the word “Muisto,” which translates to “keepsake.” My mom only knows that a friend gave the ring to Hilma before she left Finland. They knew they would never meet again, and when I wear the ring, I think about that…how hard it must have been to leave your home, family and friends whom you would never see again. According to my mom, her grandparents never spoke much of Finland and those they left behind. The tradition of the sauna, though, remained. I have many memories of the sauna my grandpa built, attached to the back of the garage, with its wood-burning stove and rocks from the shoreline heating on the stovetop, waiting to be doused with water. The ring connects me to those memories, so continues to function as it was intended, a memento of times past and those no longer with us. 

Place(s): Finland
Year: 1914

– Kara ZumBahlen

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more