This post was written for Robin Reagler's Freedom to Marry Week blog carnival, What About Love. Since I'm slightly late to the game, I'm combining yesterday's and today's themes: Something old, and something new.
On the ring finger of my left hand, just underneath my gold wedding band, I sport an engagement ring with a rock that would make any girl swoon — assuming she's the sort of girl who swoon over diamonds. I'm not, really. Sometimes, I think it would be better placed on someone with a French manicure, not close-cropped fingernails and chunky silver rings.
My wife didn't give the ring to me. Her proposal did not involve small velvet boxes or bended knees. Rather, it came over the phone, long distance, while I was rooting through my fridge for something to eat. Just finished her PhD and half a year into what would eventually become her first permanent faculty job, she wasn't in any position to spring for a multi-carat, round cut, bright white diamond, set in white gold band, with two smaller stones nestled on either side of it. Nor would I have wanted her to.
I suppose you could argue that, more than 40 years ago and fresh from his own engineering degree, my dad wasn't necessarily in a position to spring for the ring, either. But he — and, more importantly, perhaps, his mother, who worked most of her adult life, before and after her husband died, to help support her family — wanted to do right by the bookish, violet-eyed young woman who would become his wife. And since my grandmother worked at, conveniently, a jewelry store, she dropped everything to make sure that, when he popped the question, he had an eye-popping ring to back him up — staff discount, of course.
And when Rachel and I told my parents that we were getting hitched, my mother immediately dropped everything and began to plan. She phoned my entire extended family, as well as caterers and rabbis and loads of friends. I came home the next day to dozens of messages of congratulations on my answering machine.
Did my mother slip off her engagement ring and hand it to me in a selfless expression of her love and support? No. She didn't need to. Her love and support were tangible, but in any case the ring slipped off of its own accord, soon enough, too big to remain on her chemo-wasted finger. We put it away in a drawer for safekeeping. Still, we planned and planned for June wedding, and then a May wedding, when June became unrealistic.
And then we called off the May wedding, and attended a May funeral, instead.
Rachel and I exchanged rings privately that day, new rings, that we bought in a rush at the mall — no time to linger over choosing, or have something made or engraved. We thought that we'd replace them when we had more time, but they've grown on us, become laden with meeting. And then, on our original June date, we exchanged those new rings publicly, in a small, bittersweet, ceremony.
A couple of years later, when I decided I needed a more tangible reminder of her, my father let me take my mother's engagement ring. I rarely take it off. If you look closely at the diamond, you can see a small chip, a tiny flaw in the perfection. I don't mind it — it makes sense to me in a world without my mother.
And so now, on the ring finger of my left hand, I wear two bands, one old and one new. My mother didn't live to see my wedding, but at least — in Ontario, Canada, in 2004 —she could have. One day, the world?