A few days ago, I suffered a small cut on my finger. I know, you are imagining pools of blood and frantic calls to 911, but alas, my life lacks that kind of drama. The cut fell into the category of minor at best, however, it did cause my finger to swell a bit, making for a tight fit for the diamond anniversary band my husband Bob bestowed upon me many years ago.
Uncomfortable, I struggled to get the ring off and then placed it in a safe place in a small box in a drawer. It felt strange not to wear the ring for a few days, as I had barely taken it off in over a decade.
I can still remember the day Bob presented me with this oh so unexpected present. At the time we shared a modest, two-bedroom townhome with our then four-year old daughter Melissa, now 14. Bob, like so many before him, had decided to chase the American dream by starting his own company. A commission-based business, one sale seemed like a windfall, but that money had to last several months until the next paycheck came along. If I had my way, I'd budget the exact amount we'd need for groceries, pre-school, clothes, gas, etc. But Bob had other plans. He took a big chunk of that windfall and spent it, quite unneccessarily at the time, on a diamond ring to celebrate our seventh anniversary.
When I tore open the wrapping, lifted the lid on the box, and stared down at this beautiful ring, a mixed menagerie of conflicting thoughts ran through my mind:
1. My husband is crazy.
2. We can't afford this, we have to make our money last, and we're barely getting by as it is.
3. It's beautiful.
4. My husband really loves me!
5. I really love him too!
I chose, through my delighted reaction, to only reveal numbers 3, 4, and 5 to him. The ring proudly took its place on my finger, and I truly felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
So back to my cut finger. After a few days wrapped inside a Sponge Bob band aid (The first aid of choice for 14-year old daughters), and a few drops of ointment, the tiny cut had, indeed, healed. Determined to put the ring back where it belonged, I got out of the shower, wrapped my long hair in a towel, put on a robe, and looked in my drawer for the secret ring hiding place. Ironically, as I moved years worth of clutter out of the way looking for the box where I stashed the ring, I began to worry. What if I can't find the box? What if I find the box but the ring isn't there? What if I put the ring some place else, but forgot where? What if someone stole it?
My panic was for naught, as I opened the box and found the ring sitting exactly where I had left it, just patiently waiting for me to come back. As I went through the motion of placing it on my finger, however, the ring slipped out of my hands, which were still a bit wet and slippery from the shower. Then it bounced on the edge of my dresser, and "poof" simply vanished.
At first, pure logic took over. Unless I lived at Hogwarts, objects didn't just magically dissappear. The three dresser drawers were all slighly ajar, so more than likely, one of those drawers now played host to my ring. Taking a deep breath to steady my mounting panic, I hurridly searched through drawer number one. No luck. Drawer number two, nothing but socks. Drawer number three. Nada, zilch, zippo, nothing.
I would not cry, I told myself. I would not cry. The ring had to be in the vacinity, I just had to look more carefully. I glanced over at Bob who still had 15 more minutes of morning slumber before the alarm clock forced him to start his day. I didn't want to disturb his precious few remaining moments of sleep, but desperate times called for desperate measures. At the sound of my voice whispering his name, he rolled over and opened his eyes, only to find his wife standing there, tears streaming down her face.
He jumped out of bed, the reluctant hero, rushing to save the day. With his help, a more thorough search ensued. We lifted papers and bedcovers, looked in trashcans, combed the shower floor. Still...nothing.
Could my anniversary gift of long ago be replaced? Yes.
Would the sentiments born out of each day of my marriage come attached to the new model? No.
I had to find that ring!
Finally, Bob and I had to give in to the clock, which firmly told us that unless time stood still, we would soon be late for work. I went through the motions of my daily routine. Tasks and requests usually met with a shrug caused anger and frustration, as my loss enveloped me in a dark cloud throughout the day.
I had to find that ring!
A few hours later I found myself back in my bedroom, with Bob by my side and a flashlight in hand to scour tiny nooks and crannies behind doors and dressers. However, I soon realized that searching required strategy, and Bob had a different plan. Although grateful for his help, I dismissed him from the bedroom, then set to work.
I pulled out the top dresser drawer and set it on the floor, staring at a culmination of years of "stuff" that at one time or another must have been deemed valuable. Since I had to look anyway, I decided to use this time to organize and toss items no longer needed.
1. Underwear. Save.
2. Bank deposit statements from 2007. Toss.
3. Red lipstick I have never used. Toss. No wait, save...you never know.
4. An expired American Express credit card. Toss.
5. An expired health insurance card. Toss.
6. A small picture frame given to me by Melissa five years ago. Toss. No wait, save for the sentimental value.
7. Four watches with broken batteries. Toss. No wait, save. Even though I haven't worn them in years, maybe I'll get the batteries fixed.
8. An old diary from 1990, the year I met Bob. Save. Defintely save!
9. A note from Melissa to her mommy, written five or six years ago, love tucked inside every misspelled word. Save. Save. Save. Save.
Momentarily forgetting about the ring, I picked up the diary and relived my emotions during those first few uncertain, whirlwind months of dating my new beau. Then, picking up the note, I relived the innocence of a little girl who thought nothing of scribbling a handwritten note of affection to the woman who had not yet been placed in the category of "embarrassing".
I walked into Melissa's room and showed her the note. She shook her head in disbelief and said in a voice of exasperation, "What the heck, I really didn't know how to spell?!"
Completely missing the point, I didn't try to explain. Someday, when she has kids of her own, she too, will treasure every handwritten note, with misspelled words capturing a moment in time. For once words are corrected and mistakes no longer grace the page, your children have moved on, grown older, leaving their innocence forever behind.
I tucked the diary, and the note, these precious pieces of my past, back inside the drawer and resumed my strategic search. Picking up a pile of underwear now scattered all over the floor, I folded each pair and placed it neatly back where it belonged. And there, sitting on the floor, hidden under the last pair of underwear, sat my ring.
In response to my shout of jubilation, Melissa and Bob came running into the bedroom.
"Don't ever take it off again mom," Melissa instructed.
I looked at my child happily and replied, "Don't worry, I won't."
And as my daughter and husband went back to doing whatever they were doing, I looked down at the ring, then thought of the diary and the note, and seriously wondered which item held more value.
The answer? They're all priceless.
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