Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Changing Rings

Today I am not wearing the wedding band husband slipped on my finger when we promised each other forever.  Most days, that glittering symbol of our mutual devotion sits safely in my jewelry chest, far from the dirt and grime of farm life. 

There was a time when I thought I would never take it off.  One lazy Sunday afternoon not too long after my engagement, I sat daydreaming in the warmth of a Louisiana autumn sun.  My head hovered high above in the clouds as I imagined my upcoming wedding and held up the pear-shaped diamond engagement ring to catch the light.

With one tilt of my hand, my heart did a nosedive.  Something new was inside my diamond— a dark crack now ran its inner length.  Somehow, I had managed to crack the hardest natural stone on earth.

Moments later on the swivel chair in the back room, I lay my head atop my mother’s sewing machine and sobbed uncontrollably into the phone.  My then fiancĂ© thought someone had died until I managed to choke out the words “I broke your ring!” before I dissolved again.

With all the seriousness a 24-year-old could muster, my younger self vowed that if the insurance company couldn’t get a replacement ring back on my finger in time for the wedding ceremony, I would simply live with a cracked diamond for the rest of my life.

A month later, a relieved fiancé slipped a second engagement ring on my finger.

Today, though, a simple $10 silver band adorns that same digit.

“I love you” is stamped crudely along its outer run.  When I take it off, the second half of the phrase stares back at me…”to the moon and back.”

As a wife and mother living on an active hay farm, much of my time is spent cooking, washing dishes, picking up after three children, and digging in the dirt.  In March 2014, my father lost and found his ring while working outside.  It was then that I realized I was just asking for the same to happen to me, especially when at day’s end, I sometimes couldn’t even see the brightness on my finger for the dirt caked on top.

I didn’t want to go naked. I couldn’t imagine giving anyone the idea that I was free—or that I wanted to be free--from my marriage covenant, even if the likelihood of anyone seeing my ring-less hand here on the farm was super slim. I even hinted to husband of my fears, hoping he’d offer me some bubble gum machine replacement.  But, he didn’t.  So, I did. 

When I would go off the farm, I’d slip on husband’s ring again.  But at home, I grew more comfortable with the simple band I didn’t have to worry about losing, cracking, or coating with last fall’s horse manure now turned rich garden soil.

Still, I felt guilty about what I’d done.  For a solid year, I felt as if I were betraying my husband’s love every time I slipped off my wedding band and replaced it with the silver band. 

Then, one night, husband mentioned the ring in passing, saying, “I like to see you digging in the dirt.”

That simple, honest statement gave me a voice to reveal how guilty I’d felt about wearing it, my mind spilling over dozens of words to his nine. 

His response was, as always, quiet and level to my nervous noise.  “I liked that you still wanted everyone to know you were still married.”

I slipped my hand in his, thankful for this man who would rather be involved in the being married than in the mere trappings of what our marriage once was in the beginning. 

This must be what it is to grow old together, to get to a point where the symbols of our marriage are still sweet but the daily working side by side together among the weeds, gardens, sick children, chicken coops, and homemade swing sets…the actions we do as one because we are married are even sweeter.