The Tenacious Brilliance of a Long Marriage

In recognition of my and Daniel’s 17th wedding anniversary this weekend, I’m reposting this piece, slightly edited, from last year.

Daniel and I have a bunch of good wedding ring stories.

There’s the story about Daniel going to buy my engagement ring. (Actually, to exchange the ring he bought for his first fiancée for a bigger, nicer ring for me. But that’s a whole other story.) Daniel bought my ring at Mervis Diamond Importers in Washington, D.C., where he was waited on by none other than Ronnie Mervis himself, whose thick South African accent was ubiquitous on 1990s D.C.-area radio commercials. Ronnie christened Daniel, “A man of decision!” because of how quickly he decided on a ring.

There was the summer afternoon more than a decade ago, when Daniel emerged from swimming in a lake crowded with splashing children and realized that his wedding ring (which had been my grandfather’s) had slipped off his hand. He waded back out to where he had been swimming and began slowly walking, peering down into the murky water. A circular glimmer caught his eye. He leaned down, grabbed a handful of sand—and found his ring amid all that muck and dirt and splashing. A true Bilbo Baggins moment.

There was the sickening lurch in my stomach when I glanced down at my left hand one summer day five years ago and realized that my engagement ring was missing its diamond solitaire. We looked everywhere for that diamond, shining a flashlight into every cranny of our minivan (I figured it fell off while I was loading suitcases earlier that day for a trip up to my sister’s house), picking through used vacuum cleaner bags, and offering the children a $100 reward for finding it. Two years later, finally giving up on ever finding the missing diamond, I had a goldsmith make a new ring using the gold from my engagement ring and cheap wedding band, and the small diamonds that had framed the solitaire. As I have written previously,

My favorite part of my new wedding ring is how it feels, heavy and thick. The weight is not confining, but comforting, like a down comforter on a frigid night. It is affirming, like a sleepy child leaning into my chest—a concrete reminder that in this mundane, often limiting family life, I have found my calling and my place, and am lucky enough to share it with my true companion.

Now I have a new wedding ring story:

One weekend last summer, as Daniel emptied our minivan of its damp, smoky cargo from our camping trip to Vermont, he came upon a small clear jewel. Sure that it was a cast-off from some child’s costume jewelry, he brought it to me with a laugh: “Look what I found! Maybe it’s your diamond!” Despite his skepticism, I wondered if it could be my diamond, my four-years-missing diamond. I scratched the glass coffee table with it. I tried but failed to read newspaper type through it (you can read print through a cubic zirconia but not through a real diamond). I took it to a jeweler…

…who handed the diamond back to me with a shake of her head. “No, it’s not a diamond.”

I was stunned. Disappointed. Sick. It had to be my diamond. Daniel found it in the very place that I assumed I had lost it. It was the right size and shape. I couldn’t think of any junky piece of kids’ jewelry that had a fake diamond like this one.

Not to mention that I had already pretty much written this blog post in my head, about our penchant for ring-related crises and the way our rings always manage to make it back to us.

But the jeweler said it wasn’t a diamond.

Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I kept it for a few more days. Then, before consigning it to oblivion, I took it to another jewelry store. And at that jewelry store, two jewelers independently confirmed what I already knew somewhere deep in the primitive part of my brain that knows things.

It was a real diamond. It is my diamond.

My diamond had been sitting in that minivan for four years, through thousands of miles of driving; the loading and unloading of luggage, groceries, camping gear; and untold vacuumings. My diamond had been sitting in our 10-year-old minivan all that time, the minivan that we were getting ready to replace, that was destined for a used-car lot in the coming months. My diamond was really, really lost. And now it was found.

Of course, this brings to mind all sorts of poetry and theological insights about lost things being found. More than that, though, my lost-then-found diamond has become a metaphor for our marriage—lasting and solid and brilliant even when months and years go by when its shine, quality, and distinctiveness are hidden in the scrum of everyday life, obscured by groceries and vacuuming and the many loads we carry.

I think this ring story tops them all, don’t you?


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