The other day I noticed my engagement ring was broken. There was a crack in the band where it must have been soldered together. Until this split, I hadn’t noticed the seam. I hadn’t known there was a weak point, in this piece of jewelry, the acquisition of which (I am embarrassed to admit) had been such a focus of my early adulthood.
Notably, the ring did not break apart. The fracture is hardly noticeable as I wear the ring jeweled side out. The broken spot rests against the inside of my palm, near the base of the finger. I can conceal the imperfection completely by making a fist. Or by writing. The way I grip a pencil also hides the problem: I write with my fingers balled up against my palm. The pen sticks through my fist like an arrow would pierce fruit
I write just fine like that. Happily. Neatly.
This is how I learned, never getting instruction concerning the “proper way” to do things until I was an adult myself and was charged with the task of teaching my young children how to hold a pencil. You’re supposed to hold the pen with a pincer, thumb and index finger meeting gently at the tip of the pen with its shaft resting easily on the middle finger’s top joint. The fingers should form a relaxed and open cavity around the palm. (like those hands in the Escher drawing.)
Writing is supposed to come more easily this way. Less cramped. More relaxed.
But that posture does not come naturally to me. I am accustomed to squeezing that pencil for dear life. Still, I can imitate that easy grip for a time but always, as soon as I forget that I am trying to relax, will revert back to my closed fist.
I don’t mind. This is how I am comfortable.
In the past few days, ever since I noticed the fracture, I open my hand every so often and wonder,
When did this happen? How did this happen?
From lifting weights probably. Creeping middle age has sent me to the gym with a little more desperation recently. Even though my weights seem so light in comparison to those around me (I am like the only one lifting the 8 pounders!) I imagine that I am holding on to those little dumbbells with more ferocity than most.
The disruption in the metal is so slight. It seems like I could just push the two disjointed ends back together again, so they would form the loop they once made when the ring was forged.
I really should just take it to the jeweler. Best to call in an expert for these things.
The old guy who made the ring always remembers me. In the beginning, when my husband and I went to his shop to look at rings, I remember how the jeweler reacted when I showed him the styles I liked. He looked up, squinting at me sideways and asked, “You like that one?” I couldn’t tell if he was surprised, disgusted, or maybe just a little hard of hearing.
My memory is confounded by my stress and embarrassment surrounding this event–which in many ways was the culmination of a dream come true but not quite in the way my teenage self had imagined it. I had thought I would be proposed to by surprise, whisked away to France, you know, something involving a trail of rose petals. But then I fell in love with someone who was much more the “trail of laundry” type and who wasn’t much of a planner. Given that he still asks me where we keep the toilet paper I am not surprised that he needed a little push in the “let’s get married department.” It’s not that he didn’t want to. It’s just that he just never would have gotten around to doing it.
So, back then, after 3 1/2 years of dating, armed with a diamond I had inherited from a great-great grandmother on my father’s side, we went to this jeweler together. As it turned out, a woman from my husband’s hometown happened to be there, too, getting her watch fixed. There was no concealing the object of our visit. She was a smart woman and, even if I had tried to hide it, she would have recognized the nature of strong-armed proposal playing out in front of her.
Did I mention that I brought my own diamond?
This accidental witness didn’t just provide a reminder that it is always possible to feel even more embarrassed. She offered valuable counsel as well. My eventual husband was worried that it might not be appropriate for him to use my great-great grandma’s diamond. His hometown friend reassured him.
“No, it’s okay. It’s big enough.”
It was big enough. And despite all his initial foot-dragging, my eventual husband took that inherited diamond and worked with the jeweler to design a very nice ring.
Surprisingly, or perhaps fittingly?, when my eventual husband presented this ring and officially proposed (in his bedroom, next to an artful display of scattered underwear) the ring was too small.
Nevertheless, it was gorgeous. I was so happy. I threw caution to the wind and shoved that sparkly token of takenhood on my finger. After calling my parents and friends to tell them the official “news,” I spent the rest of the evening trying to remove the ring and eventually, with the aid of dental floss, a bag of frozen peas and then some soap and hot water, I was able to do so.
The next day I returned to the jeweler to have the ring re-sized. The jeweler looked at me with that sideways glance, and said, unbelieving, “It’s too small?” He didn’t add what he must have been thinking, “How is this possible? Didn’t we take care of this ahead of time?”
I just nodded yes. And there wasn’t any doubt now. As I handed back the ring, the jeweler could see my swollen and injured ring finger which prompted him to say, “Next time. Windex. You shouldn’t have taken this off yourself.”
The ring was made bigger, no problem. I have worn it pretty much every day since, though I often remove it just to make sure I can take it off easily. When the time came to order wedding bands, I was sure to get the correct size
After I got married I would stop in to the jeweler’s from time to time, to get my watch fixed or a necklace repaired. He always asks me to take off my engagement ring so he can clean it.
“What do you do to this?” he asks with that characteristic sideways glance. As he takes my cherished, but usually sunscreen encrusted ring from me, I say “I just wear it, I guess.”
In a matter of seconds he shoots some pressurized water at it, cleans it up, and hands it back to me with the admonition, “Take care.”
I am hard on stuff. This truth is all the more apparent, now that I have managed to break my engagement ring from just wearing it while I go about my life.
As I look at the ring now, in its fanciness and its filigreed edges and its diamond that is definitely big enough, I still love it. Even though it is broken, my affection for the ring and for that time in my life when I was so excited to be a bride, has not diminished.
But I do have a new appreciation for my wedding band, my fancy ring’s companion there on my ring finger. It is a plain band. Small and thin. It is not a choice many people would have made. On the surface it does not match with its glitzier counterpart.
The two do go together, though, as the one that was wrong at first with the other that has always been the right size. Like a first and second draft. (The second draft typed here at the keyboard with open palms.)
And yet despite its plainness and unimpressiveness (or maybe because of that?), my wedding band is still a smooth, unbroken circle. It is not quite as shiny as it was on our wedding day but it is just as strong as it ever was.