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Symbols of Commitment

I follow a journalist on Facebook, John Gray, who lives and reports on my old stomping ground in upstate NY. I like his sense of humor, his heartfelt posts and his views in general. Yesterday, he posted a link to this read on Scary Mommy regarding wedding rings. He asked what the women who follow him thought about this woman's point of view. 

I have received three new rings. 

My first engagement ring I returned to my now-husband a few months after he gave it to me. We didn't break up as a couple but simply backed off from moving on to the next step in our relationship. I told everyone we had gotten disengaged. There were reasons, mostly external, for this but the bottom line was it had nothing to do with our commitment to one another.  After almost a year, he proposed a second time with the same ring. This time it stuck :) 

I LOVED the ring he gave me. The only direction I ever gave him was in the shape of the diamond I preferred. He ended up choosing the diamond separate from the band and had the jeweler mount it in the setting. My ring is gold with little tiny flowers and leaves etched around it. It was a surprising choice from him as he is not overtly romantic but clearly he remembered I loved flowers and found a way to combine these two things that meant alot to me. 

We were living with another couple at this time and they became engaged not long after we did. Unlike us, our friends choose to buy the engagement ring together. We went along with them and while looking around struck up a conversation with a sales clerk who suggested we could trade in my diamond for a newer, larger one (paying the difference of course!) My soon to be husband looked at me and said "Let's do it. Old diamond had bad juju." So that's what we did.

Like the wife in the article, my ring has been through some serious sh#*.  House moves, job changes, pregnancies, health emergencies. On top of life moments to lowest of lows - mine, his and ours. Screaming, laughing, crying, singing, late into the night conversations. My ring has flown on planes, sailed on ships, been on long, long car rides. My ring has been in foreign countries and swam in various oceans and lakes. It has created and cleaned and performed the minutia that makes up life. And like the woman who wears it, it shows its age. Those pretty etched flowers have worn away. Only those underneath the wrap that is my wedding band are still visible. 

Last November my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We had just uprooted our family and moved 800 miles. He still works in NY and toggles back and forth between there and here. I picked him up from the airport, drove home and opened up the garage where I had hidden a used Jeep Wrangler. He had one 15 years ago but had to give it up when baby #2 came along. It had been the one thing he talked about wanting to have again, especially once we made the decision to move south. It's not fancy and needs some TLC which he has been happy to give it. 

Standing in our driveway, under a dark sky sprinkled with stars, he pulled out not one but two jewelry boxes from his suitcase. Each one contained a ring. The first was a white gold anniversary band with five diamonds. In the second was my birthstone surrounded by diamond chips on a white gold band studded with more diamond chips. Shaking, his voice trembling, he told me he would not change a single thing. He would do it all over and over and over again. If you truly knew everything he and I have faced, you would completely understand when I say how profoundly moving and reassuring his words were to me.

I had not asked for so I was certainly not expecting this new set of bands. And yet, it was the most perfect gift. New state, new house, new everything. It is somehow apropro that as we started this new adventure in our journey together, the commitment we made to not only make this huge change but to make it work, was acknowledged. 

So yes, I think there are times where upgrading a wedding ring is appropriate, symbolic and deeply emotional. 

But I have not shut my original bands away in a drawer. I, we, would not be where we are today, literally and metaphorically, if it wasn't for our past; therefore I trade off and wear them both. And, even though they are different metals, I even sometimes combine them because the symbolism of them together makes me smile.

 

Rings.jpg

As I was trolling the internet a few days ago I came across an article (see link below the photo) that talked about a phenomenon many people who are close to death experience. This caught my attention because I witnessed this when my great-grandmother was dying from cancer twenty plus years ago. It was my first and to date only encounter with this experience and I found it eerie and unsettling.

My great-grandmother was a constant presence in my life up until the day she died. She lived on her own up until the last few years of her life; then she went to live with her son/my great-uncle and his wife across the river from where we lived. Every few months she would come to our house and spend a week with us. 

Unfortunately, when I was in high school, my great-grandmother developed what the doctor's said was cervical cancer. She ignored her symptoms for so long that by the time she was strong-armed into seeking medical help it was difficult to diagnosis and pretty much too late to try and treat. At this point, she stopped coming to our home so my mom would bring us to my great-uncle's house to visit with her. 

During one such visit, and to my recollection, this was the last one I had with her, we were sitting in her bedroom. My great-grandmother was to my left and my mom was sitting across from me. Mom was asking her questions, making general chit chat, when my great-grandmother shared that she recently had some visitors. When my mom asked her who she gave the names of people that had passed on years before. At first, I was confused by what my great-grandmother was saying. I thought I was missing something or maybe had people mixed up. I remember looking at my mother who had a wide-eyed 'oh boy' look on her face which took me from confused to nervous. I saw her make a split second decision on how she was going to handle this strange turn of conversation. She played along. She began to ask my great-grandmother questions, just as if these deceased people had actually stopped by to see her. The conversation wasn't long and meandered into other, less strange, topics. After we said goodbye and got in the car I immediately turned to my mother and asked her what the heck was that?! She knew what it meant and explained this phenomenon. It was a quiet car ride home.

On the left is my great, great grandmother Augusta with her daughter, my great grandmother Ella. 

On the left is my great, great grandmother Augusta with her daughter, my great grandmother Ella. 

If you are interested in reading the article written by Gary Rotstein on this topic, here is the link. It first appeared in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on July 2.

Secret vs Surprise

My mom and niece came over the other night for dinner. As family conversations go, we wandered around topics. From a conversation about money we migrated to one on secrets. 

My mother and I both have a secret stash of cash. I think the reason my mom has one is 'just because.' She is a post-depression baby but grew up in a home of very modest means. On the other hand, my secret stash I had earmarked for one of two purposes. But as life goes, I didn't end up using it for either of those choices.

I used my secret stash of cash as a deposit on a Jeep Wrangler for my husband. Our 25th wedding anniversary was coming. When we decided to move from NY to SC, one of the first things he talked about doing was getting another Jeep. He had one earlier in our marriage, between baby #1 and #2. When baby #2's arrival was immient we traded it in for a minivan and he took over driving my Neon.  (The sacrifices we make as parents.....neither of us were very thrilled with our vehicles but we do what we have to do.

I spent weeks looking for a used Wrangler that I could purchase outright with my very meager budget. (Shout out and big high-five to my brother here - he was enormously helpful!!) To add a layer of complexity to this endeavor, I was using a portion of our moving money to pay the rest of what my secret stash of cash didn't cover. And of course, I had to somehow hide or have a cover story as to why I withdrew thousands of dollars from this account. 

Since my niece was privy to all this, when we were talking about our secret stash of cash, she questioned me as to whether this wasn't a secret I kept from her uncle/my hubby. I told her no. The Jeep was a surprise not a secret as I hadn't hidden it from him or bought it without his knowledge for some other purpose. So, this was a secret; a good one. 

Later on, as I was thinking about this conversation, I wondered if it was good. In order to get a Jeep that wasn't going to be a money pit, I had to spend more than my original budgeted amount. Plus we have a general rule that any purchases over $200 is to be talked about first.  We hadn't finished taking care of all the expenses that came with moving and re-establishing a home. He could have gotten very angry with me for spending a chunk of the money on this. In fact, when I finally unveiled my anniverary gift to him the first thing he said to me, "Was how much did this cost?" 

On the other hand I saw this as a surprise. We rarely/never before make grandiose gestures to one another. Its not our style. But this was a significant milestone in our relationship. And he has made a huge sacrifice when it comes to our relocation so I also saw this as a way to give back to him; something I knew he truly wanted. Has talked about for years. We already had conversations about buying one, eventually, like a year down the road. I just changed the priorities; sped up the timeframe. I certainly didn't feel any guilt. I was excited for him. 

Secret. Surprise. 

Maybe as Secprise? Or Supcret?

My knight rides a white Jeep!

My knight rides a white Jeep!