Anniversary

I had another post planned, a light and funny piece. Today, though, I’m not feeling light or funny. Maybe that’s because it is November. Grey, slushy, damp November.  Maybe it is the date, a date inscribed with such fury in my journal that I have to look away from the pages, close the cover and put it away. Whatever. All I know is that something else showed up and asked to be written today. It started with these:

I bought myself these fresh flowers today – Gerber daisies, white chrysanthemum, tiny pink carnations. They’re tucked in a crystal vase sitting on the sideboard in the front hall. I bought them at the grocery store, as I watched an older couple beside me, a man and woman well into their eighties, tag-teaming as they moved groceries from their yellow shopping cart to the conveyor belt carrying them to the cashier.  The gentleman, in his brown cap, would reach into the basket, grab the mayonnaise or a plastic bag of tomatoes and hand them to his wife, who would put them on the belt.

I watched them for longer than was polite, the woman behind me in line probably wondering why I wasn’t getting a move on myself, unloading my little bag of carrots, my yellow-green bunch of bananas (non-organic) , my three-bag pack of skim milk. I couldn’t. I was transfixed, until finally I turned on my heel and walked over to the fresh flower display. These drew my eye first:

 

I picked them up and admired them. Romance!  But no. That would be kind of like buying wedding rings for yourself. Pathetic.

A friend asked me, when I did just that, “Do you have news?”

“Uh, no,” I said, looking down at the engagement ring on the third finger of my right hand. “I suppose you could say this is a symbol of my independence.”  Because what else do you do if you want rings and no one is offering them?

Later, when I turned thirty-three, married for five years with two young kids, I replaced those silly rings with a slim silver band dotted with blue sapphires. I wear it still, on my right hand, when I wear rings at all. And on my left hand? My great-grandmother’s simple gold wedding band, a bond to my mother’s family.  Here they are:

I never figured out whether Grandma’s wedding band dated from her first or second marriage. Grandma Cotter was a widow, though she re-married. She was also a writer, too, like me. I have a boxful of her poetry that I keep safely stowed in my bedroom, poetry reflecting her daily life and the lives of the ones she loved. I fiddle with that gold band often, turning it around my finger. I look down at it and think of my Grandma Cotter, her white hair and her quilting, and I think of her daughter, Olive, my “Nan”, the one who gave the ring to me. I remember Nan’s black upright piano, the wooden peanut bowl with the lid (that Grandpa Cotter made by hand, if I’m not mistaken), the endless games of Scrabble, gin rummy and euchre.

I think of the first wedding ring I bought my husband, that I gave him for Christmas the year our first daughter was born, the ring I hammered flat on the cement floor of our garage.

You might think that rings don’t mean anything at all, but you would be wrong. You might think that a simple date means nothing at all either, and you’d be wrong twice, at least in the world where I was raised, and especially in a world where laptops and smartphones makes it simple to remember any date that matters. A date you care about. That puts me in a predicament, of course, but nothing that a few fresh flowers don’t fix up just fine.

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