Something old that gives me strength.
Shortly before my mother died, she became anxious about making sure Aunt Jean (her sister) and I went through her jewelry box. My younger sister already had first dibs and had, appropriately, chosen the diamond wedding ring she helped my father pick out for my mother after I went away to school.
I’m not much of a jewelry person. In fact, my own diamond wedding ring is tucked away in a safe place while a plain gold band makes what I expect to be a permanent indent on my fourth left finger. I picked out a few fun strands of fake pearls I expect might be fun for grandkids someday, and gratefully claimed the two mismatched wedding bands of my mother and father.
Sadly (and I’m a little mad at myself for this), I failed to record the audio when, one night as my mother and I were talking, she told me about the mismatched bands. It may have been bedtime. We were both tired. And the details are a bit fuzzy.
Something about how their bands didn’t match and they tried on numerous occasions to get things together enough (time, money, will, who knows?) enough to pick out matching bands together.
She mentioned their trip to Hawaii. I don’t remember if this was a time they tried again, or what?
I do seem to recall a story–which may or may not be true–of my father either spraining or breaking his finger playing church basketball and having to have his ring cut off.
If true, that would be one more impediment in their 20-some year long quest to match.
In any case, as you can tell, my mother’s fingers were so tiny her entire band fit within the circumference of my father’s. (Incidentally, I have my father’s hands.)
How do these two mismatched old wedding bands give me strength?
Because marriage is more complicated than “I do” and “Happily Ever After.” Marriage is the hard–and often painful–work of taking two mismatched hands–male and female, independent individuals with completely different childhoods, personalities, emotional baggage and perspectives–joining them together, with an eternal commitment, a covenant, to see it through. Even if, somehow, you never manage to come together quite enough to find matching bands.
Without airing dirty laundry that I fully expect is now white linen crisp from being washed clean and line-dried in the full sun, I’ll simply mention how as a youth I spent more than one weekend away from home–siblings farmed out elsewhere–wondering if I’d come back to a whole or broken home.
How my aunt used to tell my mother how sorry she was my dad died before they got through the hardest part–so many kids, so much hurt, so many teenagers–and had a chance to turn and grow back towards one another again.
And how my brothers and sister and I so many times worked to find the right words to assure Mom that Dad would indeed traverse the confines of time and space and the mortal experience to meet her when she crossed to the other side. That she would not be left standing there alone, found wanting. That despite their different sizes, mismatched bands and misunderstandings, once they both were free from the mortal trappings of mental, physical, and emotional differences; because they each kept their covenants they would have a joyful reunion. A celebration of their eternal union.
When I wear this necklace–the only other jewelry besides my own band–my fingers sometimes slide and turn the bands as they dangle from the heart. I notice the tension as the metal edges scrape across each other. The subtle scissor blade-sound of edge against edge. I move them back into alignment and rest them, nested, one inside the other, over my heart.
These two old mismatched rings give me strength because they give me hope. They remind me of the gift the atonement–at-one-ment–that promises to refine the metal of mismatched rings, and to heal hearts and minds and unions.
[Day 69 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]