“I love your ring”…..I hear this often since wearing my “new” wedding ring. And you know what? I do too. The funny thing is, this is my third ring. Yes, I have only been married twice, and to the same man, so then what’s the story?
When we first married, we were kids and the “in” thing then was Black Hills Gold. So, that was my first ring. Two bands soldered together, both Black Hills Gold, one my engagement ring and the other the wedding band with a very modest diamond. The ring had been more of Bruce’s choice. The diamond at the time was nice for our very modest beginning. It signified a certain pride for him that he could give his new wife something somewhat substantial. Almost immediately, I regretted the purchase (but I hated to tell him that). The Black Hills Gold quickly fell out of favor with me and the diamond stuck up so far that I got it caught on everything. This happened so often that it actually bent back, a few times my finger got caught so badly that it would scrape my skin and swell. Bruce had a similar problem with his in that he had gotten his finger smashed at work more than once, and his ring had become all misshapen. Black Hills Gold is a very soft metal.
I finally decided that was enough of that ring set and purchased us a more 20th century streamlined silver set. Mine was thick with a double band of small diamonds inset into the band. Bruce’s was silver with a line of small diamonds inset as well. They were simple and fit our minimalist style better. I also loved that I no longer got my diamond caught on everything. Bruce still had a similar problem and so finally, he just stopped wearing his band.
Right here is where I imagine a gasp from people that hold tradition dear. To abandon my wedding ring, blessed by the very priest that married us was of course, heresy. For me though, it was just a ring. Don’t get me wrong, I realize what it symbolized but to me that was such a silly connotation. A ring to me didn’t make me any more or any less married. I realize though that traditionalists do not hold to this idea.
Enter Bruce’s mom, who I adore (truly she was a second mother to me for most of my life). She didn’t say much but she noticed. Whether she said something to Bruce or not, I am unsure. Madeline is Catholic and for her, God is as important to her as her family. She also embraces the symbolism that comes with being Catholic. The traditions of marriage, significantly a wedding ring is symbolic in the union of two people “forever” connected by the vows they spoke. Maybe this was foreshadowing for Bruce and I. Or maybe it is simply that I always looked at traditional marriage rituals with a skeptical eye.
I was first pregnant with Darek and delivered him before Bruce and I ever spoke our wedding vows. Before that, I grew up in a family that rarely went to church and I only went to religion classes to hang out with my friends. Most often though, I didn’t attend those as I usually had to be home to care for my younger siblings. Religion for us was not front and center. My grandma Elsie drug me along to church whenever we happened to be there on a Sunday (we got good at figuring ways around this after a while) otherwise, it was not a common habit of ours. In short, I am telling you that religion and tradition within the heretical sense is nothing that I had ever embraced.
I remember some of the stories from the Bible; Noah’s Ark, The Ten Commandments and David and Goliath to name a few (okay, probably the only few that I really know). But overall, I do not remember much of the literature from the Bible and other than what I had to read when attending religion classes, I have never read the Bible front to back. I tried once, when I became Catholic after marrying Bruce. There were so many thou’s and thee’s that it was hard to understand the actual story. Obviously, far too cerebral for me. What I do remember learning was that essentially when marrying, the wife became the husband’s “property” and she would take his last name as his “property”. That always bothered me.
When Bruce and I were going to be married, I said that I didn’t want to change my name. I am fairly certain that Bruce had a silent heart attack! First, that was not going to sit well with his traditional parents and second, that was not going to sit well with his traditional parents. Also, Bruce was traditional in some sense of the word as well, and to him that was just something a woman did. He insisted that I change my last name to his.
For those of you that don’t know my heritage, I am 1/4 GERMAN, 1/4 SWEDE (my dad) and then the rest is a Heinz 57 mixture (my mom). To stay that I can be stubborn is an understatement. I dug in my heels. No, I wasn’t going to change my name.
Bruce: <getting desperate> Please change your name….
Me: <stubborn as hell> No, you change your last name!
Bruce: <stunned silence> <exasperation>
Me: <to further my point> Your dad is not my dad! My dad is Darryl ANDERSON and that is my last name.
However, Bruce is a smart man and he knew that my dad adored him. He also knew that I adored my dad. So one day, sometime before the wedding my dad and I were doing some things around the house (in Marshall) and he started saying that he thought that Bruce’s family was wonderful (true), his parents amazing (they are) and that they had a well respected name (yes…they….do). ah, huh…..
Me: Bruce talked to you didn’t he.
Dad: Carla, it’s tradition that the wife takes the man’s last name.
Me: Dad, I….we, are the MOST nontraditional people I have ever known. I am not changing my last name. I am NO ONE’s property! You’re my dad! My last name is ANDERSON!
And so we went round and round, until finally…..
Dad: <exasperated> (You gave me the Swede and German genes dad!) Carla, just do this FOR me.
Me: <damn> (way to pull out the “do it for the dad I adore” card!) Fine!
So my point to that entire story is that I am very nontraditional. Some would say that I step to the beat of my own drum. I did learn that from my dad and most definitely, my mom. In fact, to me tradition always felt somewhat smothering, straightforward and rigid. To me, tradition is a set of rules that are definite, like a square, with appointed corners and lines. I grew up more like an onion, a lot of layers, with each new peeling being another new unveiling of my either normal, or abnormal ideas.
I relented, Bruce and I were married and I changed my name.
And then, we got divorced and I changed my name back to Anderson (what a nightmare by the way, it was way easier when I was young, than it was 2 decades later!). Bruce was openly upset that I changed my name. I understood it and yet, for me, taking my given name was so important to me. Whatever happened to the rings? Honestly, I am unsure. For a while it was chaos, moving here and there. Regardless, they are gone.
And then, we got remarried.
You lost yet?
When we remarried it was definitely not a “let’s run away” romantic wedding. It was more of a “we’re best friends and life has taken us down a VERY winding road” wedding. It was a low-key event with my sister Ally (in a Goodwill prom dress (true Anderson humor) as we were in khaki’s and jeans)and my brother Chad as witnesses, along with our boy’s, and then Nolan (nephew) and Bella (niece). In fact, I called my sister’s Dawn and Roxy ON the way to our “wedding” to tell them!
Roxy: <stunned silence> Wait, what….. First, why didn’t you tell us so we could be there? (And then) Ally is not supposed to be your matron of honor, I am! That’s how it works! You and I are each other’s, and Dawn and Ally were each other’s. That was the deal. (Serious Rox?, LOL)
Me: She’s not my matron of honor, she’s just a WITNESS! (Okay, I know she was half joking….but ever so funny!)
Dawn: <gushing, ever the romantic and traditionalist> Oh! I knew you guys would! I am so happy for you….
I told Lon and Randy after it was done.
Lon: WTF? Can you two make up your mind already!
Randy: Good! I am happy for you guys.
The responses from each sibling were exactly as I expected.
Needless to say, I did NOT change my name again. It is still Anderson. I never realized quite the attachment I had to my given last name, but I strongly love it. To me, it symbolizes my grandma and grandpa Anderson. It is grandma standing at her stove baking up a freezer full of cookies. It is my grandpa sitting in his chair under the clothesline, looking out at the farm he built and loved. It is my dad roaming around on the farm, feeding pigs and riding around in the combine. That was my tradition. My name remains my given last name.
What we did do was decide to get me a ring….again. Originally I hadn’t thought so, especially after our previous disappointments with our other wedding ring choices.
Bruce: Do you want a ring?
Me: No! (scoffing and laughing a bit)
Then later, I realized that the way some things fly out of my mouth are not always ideal. I started to think that maybe Bruce wanted me to have one? When thinking about it, I realized that once I wore his name, and stripped him of that when we divorced. I know that hurt him. We had agreed my last name would remain Anderson but the ring, such a small thing to me but maybe a bigger deal to him, as it signified our union.
Me: (approaching Bruce one evening) Maybe a ring would be a good idea….
Why the ring? I guess that’s where I am the onion, complex and ever confusing with each new layer. It felt like I should although I had no real reason “why”. Possibly because it signified a relationship re-established. Mostly because it felt right.
You have to understand that my mom never had a wedding ring. Dad and her went to Nevada and eloped. Period. I believe that dad always had the intention of getting mom a ring, but it just never happened. My mother never really wore jewelry. We got her a mother’s ring one year and it lasted for a few months before it was off. Jewelry just wasn’t that important to her. I guess that’s where I learned my minimalist approach to jewelry as well. Other than a wedding ring, I have never had jewelry pieces that would be considered heirlooms. I truly never had a piece that I loved.
Until this ring, and yes, I too love this ring. Again, for many reasons. It is simple and beautiful. It bears the symbol of a friendship that has somehow lasted for more 3 decades, even with all the detours in our journey. It also reminds me daily that I am thankful for what I have.
The other day, Bruce and I were both bustling around, trying to get out the door, both running late for work. I giggle as I write this because there was a time that Bruce was never late, unless I made him late, which was often. Three decades with Anderson’s will do that to a person.
Bruce: Where’s my keys (hollering from bottom of stairs)
Me: By the back door?
Bruce: No, I checked, I can’t find them.
After years of this, I am already on my way down the steps. I already know that I am the only person in the house that can ever “magically” find anything.
Me: <go to back door, there they are>
Bruce: Oh…. Could you move Darek’s care for me? It’s behind mine.
Me: (exasperated> Bruce, I’m running late too!
Bruce: <mumbling about parking on street from now on…grumble, more grumble>
I grab Darek’s keys, irritated. Bruce is also irritated saying he will just “wiggle” around Darek’s car. We are both frustrated. I get in the car and move it, and then I think to myself that we shouldn’t leave on this note, one never knows what life will bring.
Me: (I get out of the car and as Bruce is backing out I say through his open window) I’m sorry, I’m just late. Have a good day!
Bruce: (totally caught off guard by this “new” Carla who usually internalizes ALL things, BROODS and usually says NOTHING when angered) You….too….
Later a text from Bruce.
Bruce: I’m sorry about earlier. I was just running late and my body was not cooperating. 🙁
I looked down at the ring on my finger when I got that text and thought my normal thought, ‘life is funny’ in a not funny way. Here we are after all these years, and all of our trials still trying to figure this thing called marriage out. That’s what this ring symbolizes to me, a continuous ride with a good friend as we journey forward together. I find myself spinning it around with my fingers subconsciously, and aligning them together so that the diamonds are facing forward. Each time I play around with my ring, a thought enters my mind that reminds me of the importance of time, and of the people closest to me.
All of my rings have been very different. The first, signifying my youth and innocence (and bad fashion choices, along with my dusty rose big puffy sleeve bridesmaids dresses). The second was a sign of my burgeoning independence and establishing my identity. This last one, it is by far my most delicate of the three. I love the simple diamond band next to the larger intertwining ring. I felt that it somehow was a symbol of our journey. I look at the ring as me being the diamond part and Bruce the rose gold, and the intertwining of the band suggestive of our journey. At times, where the band joins is significant of the common ground we share, and yet when it pulls away, it reminds me that we are two different people with different ideas, that can somehow share one life.
Yeah, I know….onion. For all my obsolescence against tradition and norms, I can find peace with some parts of it. Besides, what girl doesn’t like a little bling?