In the middle of summer, afternoons in South Florida are usually at least overcast and usually, rainy. We have our own version of monsoon season. It was a cloudy summer afternoon when I drove into our gated community after work on a Monday in 1998. It didn’t register that the cop cars in front of our house might have something to do with us. But Sherod was out waiting on the curb for me and as soon as I got out of the car he explained that our house had been broken into during the workday and it was pretty badly trashed.
There was mess and spilled out drawers most places I looked, and weird empty spaces as well. Most people who’ve experienced a break-in share the same sense of desecration, of how things that were holy and lovely have been defiled and made dirty. Sherod finally had a good job and I had received another promotion at FedEx so we’d just bought new furniture including a dresser, finally, a really nice dresser with a mirror. It came with a jewelry tray that went across one of the top drawers. I had carefully put all the beautiful jewelry I inherited from my grandmother and received from my mother. Antique, very fine jewelry I took for granted. The day before, a Sunday, Sherod and I had been out sailing on our good vessel Promise and because it’s dangerous to wear jewelry when you are handling lines and raising and lowering sails, I had taken my wedding band off and put it in the jewelry tray; earlier I’d taken off the diamond circlet Sherod had given me as an engagement ring and I’d left it with my makeup in a bathroom drawer. That morning I left for work in a hurry and forgot to put either ring back on.
So all that jewelry, fine and meaning-laden, was all there, literally offered up on a tray to the thieves. And of course, they took it. I spent the day after the break-in scrubbing everything down in my house, reclaiming my home. The cops had suggested I start visiting all the local pawn shops to see if I could buy back any of my jewelry. After walking into one and almost throwing up, I let go. I thanked God for the beauty of the pieces I had had, especially the ones I wore on my wedding day, and asked for the grace to move on, not clinging to anger or bitterness for things I’d lost. After all, they were just that—things. I consoled myself because they had not found my engagement ring; surely, that had to count for something. Occasionally, when I am dressing up for a special occasion, I remember one piece or another and wish I still had the jewelry. But that happens less and less. .
Sherod got a band to replace the one I had lost and though I can’t forget it isn’t the circle he slipped on my finger the day we made our vows to each other, the new one is a perfectly good replacement. Life went on. I also started putting on the weight. A whole lot of weight—enough that my engagement ring got tighter and tighter till I finally took it off. Occasionally, I would wear it again, squeezed on and uncomfortable. And then, one day, about 4 years ago, when I went to get it out again, I couldn’t find it. I searched frantically for that ring, berating myself for my carelessness and not having a single place to hold my jewelry. When I told Sherod I couldn’t find it, he didn’t get angry. It was worse—his face was pure disappointment and he was quiet for days afterwards. I kept searching with no luck.
This Christmas, I gave him a rifle for Christmas and he gave me a diamond ring. It’s one of those 3-diamond rings that represent ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’. The ring is beautiful, it sparkles and shines. Even more, I am keenly aware of Sherod’s forgiveness and willingness to move past his disappointment in me. I wear it fairly frequently and it also spends quite a bit of time in the safe in our house—I never take it off without putting it into that safe.
This morning, I went back into the safe (It is quite large—large enough for the rifles and stuff Sherod uses for hunting). Something caught my eye and I looked down. There, on the red lining of the safe lay the circlet I had lost. I put it on and walked over to show my hand to Sherod. I’ve worn all three rings all day today and sitting on the tailgate of Sherod’s truck with Maria earlier this evening, I joked that all those rings made me feel really, really, super-duper married to Sherod and we laughed together. At the end of the visit with our daughter, we went to Costco to buy a Roomba because our Lab, Boo, is shedding so much the white tile in our house is constantly layered with a coat of black dog hair and we can’t stand it any longer.
All day long, I have fooled around with the three rings, trying to figure out which one should go first, which one on top? How do they all fit together? There is certainly quite a lot of sparkle when it’s all of them at once. But in the end, what I really prefer is just wearing my wedding band. It’s the one that has our initials engraved inside and a date, July 9, 1988–the essential facts about us with no capital “S” statement or diversion or flash. This replacement ring, both as good as the first one and not, reminds me that marriage is about loss and discovery, how, in the sentimental words of Alan Jackson we are all disassembled and rearranged, not once, but constantly, by love. Endurance and perseverance.
Perhaps what I like best is this is also the ring that fits most loosely on my finger.