Today’s post is from Arin, one of (as I like to think of them) the APW Iowa Crew. I suppose it makes sense that there are a lot of Practical People in Iowa. This post is such a perfect short story that I’m going to allow it to stand on its own. It reminds me of nothing so much as my very first proper post for this site on my vintage engagement ring and why it felt right. Now Arin’s story.
I tend to accumulate things that are a little rough around the edges. Captivated, always, by the story of a scratch, the history of a dent, the layers and the days that lie within tarnish and rust. There is a warmth in the well-worn that I pull on like an old sweatshirt.
Josh and I come from the same place in the world, his just a bit North of the spot that I will always call home. Born and raised on tiny map dots, our people are farmers and small-town characters, the variety of which make black-coffee conversation ritualistic and who never fail to raise their right index finger a little off the steering wheel in greeting to anyone who should happen to meet them along the gravel road. Josh knows my people. Josh is my people. And, therefore, he knows me.
In the North, yards fill up with the Lost-and-Left-Behind; rusted out car bodies and abandoned gas grills; ceiling fan blades and spent fire extinguishers and tray-less high-chairs. Tangled and broken and tossed.
As we drive, I ask Josh why he thinks this is? Why nobody seems to care? He takes my hand and responds without having to think. It is not out of laziness or neglect that these collections have come to exist, but out of practicality. After all, “someday, somebody might NEED that.”
In 1955, Josh’s great-grandfather Lester (a man whom I have to imagine was cut from a very practical thread, indeed) married a woman named Ruby. Both had been married before and, due to a range of unexpected twists, both had ended up alone.
But Lester found Ruby (or, perhaps, she found him). I like to imagine it was in a bowling alley on League Night, Him cleaned up in a button down shirt with grease under his nails, Her with red lipstick and an up-do. I like to imagine a slow song on the jukebox and a cold beer after a hard day’s work. I like to think that their conversation lasted ’til close.
Lester was a resourceful man and times were different and so, when the time came, he took the diamond solitaire that had been given to Ruby by her first husband in the 1930s and had it reset into a simple and perfect ring, accompanied by a few diamonds of his own.
I wonder how Josh just knew. I hadn’t spoken aloud how unfamiliar and cold the glass and the lights and the rows upon rows of faceted stones felt when passing by their grand stages at the mall. Did he feel me tense up? Did I squeeze his hand a little tighter? Breathe a bit shallower? But, somehow, he knew.
At the end of July, as we headed home from our vacation, we stopped by to visit his grandma and grandpa. When the visit was over, we pulled out of their driveway and drove just down the street when my sweet Josh pulled over and asked, “Hey. Do you want to see something?” (The rest of this story will prove to you, Dear Reader, that, by marrying this man, I am accepting my fate as a woman who will never, ever, ever be surprised by her husband because this one? Well, he just can’t keep a secret. Never has, never will. But carrying on…)
“Hey. Do you want to see something?”
Of course I wanted to see something! Who wouldn’t want to SEE something?!
He reached into the glove compartment and there it was. Picked up from his grandmother a mere fifteen minutes earlier and now in my hand. The loveliest little salmon-colored box, melamine with scalloped edges, its flip-top glazed with the sort of thin muck that is produced ever-so-slowly in the depths of dark drawers.
Before I opened it, Josh so gently explained that this was not a proposal, that that would come later, and then he nodded his go-ahead.
And I opened it.
Ruby’s ring. The spaces between the prongs crusted with years of pie-dough and garden dirt and all that the world had busied her with. The band worn, still full of heart and life. Still full of some kind of spirit.
I closed the box and handed it back to him. I so wish that I could have closed up with it the way the two of us felt in the car that afternoon, how suddenly we had a piece of hope-made-tangible sitting right there on the center console. How humbling and quiet and brave those minutes felt.
Josh got around to the official proposal a few weeks later. The ring inside had been cleaned up, sized down, and shined up in preparation of something brand new. This ring came with a story and I had become the caretaker of it, and all the ones that had come before. How lucky was I to get to add my own to it.
The box has found a home on a shelf in my bathroom, tucked amongst my personal shrine to perfume bottles and silver glittered evening bags and salmon-colored compacts.
Every night, I tuck my ring into its red velvet bed and delight in the fact that its perfection lies in the fact that the box it came in matched all of the things that had already arrived. And I delight in the symbolism of that, and the comfort of that, and how familiar this thing that is brand new already feels.
Photo by: Arin, herself