de(tales): wedding ring
I first became acquainted with Bromleigh while attending a panel discussion she was part of at the Festival of Faith and Writing on the topic of writing about sex. Since then, I've enjoyed getting to know her writing (and little snatches of her life) over the internet.
I'm sure that you will enjoy this beautiful de(tale) about lost things, and grace.
My husband likes to joke that I hate having nice things. This is not exactly true. I love having nice things, but I am often careless.
In high school, I was particularly bad with cameras. One was dropped over the railing of the indoor elephant enclosure on a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo. One made it through a three week trip to Japan and numerous tours through water gardens and a week spent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, only to fall off my lap and into the two foot depths of the lake behind my grandparents’ summer home from my spot on the pier.
In grad school several laptops met with untimely ends while in my care. Maybe it was because I was forever piling books on top of them, or perhaps it was due to the way I’d daily drop my shoulder bag to the floor with a thud before remembering that the computer was in it. Most just stopped working, but the screen of one heavy Dell was ultimately attached to the keyboard by nothing more than one section of a hinge.
In more recent years, a variety of smartphones have died, screens shattered. Why? This Lonely Island hit is a perfect theme song for clumsy me: it’s not just that I drop phones all the time, but that they often hit the ground with such force that you’d think I’d intended to throw them.
I am careless with things. Not just expensive things, though those are certainly the ones I notice more. I wish I could frame this trait as a virtue – I am concerned with people, and memories, not “worldly goods.” But mostly I consider it a fault: I am too often a lousy steward of the things I’ve been given, of the resources at my disposal. I feel appropriately guilty about this, but can’t usually muster sadness. Things are expensive to replace, and thus may not be replaced – I have not yet acquired another fitbit – but they are not irreplaceable.
Sometimes though, cherished objects have slipped away, and I have mourned.
For about six years of the ten in my marriage, for example, my wedding ring was lost. Well, not lost, but inaccessible. The thin band of white gold and diamonds, prayed over by the beloved friend and mentor who married us, the sign to all of Josh’s and my vow, was not on my finger.
I wore other rings in that time. I always wore something. Wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. A ring my maternal grandparents bought me on vacation; a ring my paternal grandfather had once given my grandmother and I had since inherited. Lovely bands, but not my wedding ring.
Shortly after our first daughter was born, I was sitting in the backseat of our car next to her, waiting at the ready to offer her comfort or replace her pacifier. We could not bear the sound of her crying; were so anxious in her first months that we needed an eye on her, needed her within reach, at all times.
I have chronically dry skin, and subsequently, the slightest of addictions to lotion. I had applied some in the car that night, and then noted how it was gunking up my ring. I slipped the band off my finger, ran my nail along the inside edge under the diamonds to remove any accumulation.
And then I dropped it. It slipped down into the casing around the seatbelt, and was gone. I dug in the dark, and then again the next day. No luck.
I am, as noted, accustomed to losing, breaking or otherwise destroying things. But this was different.
I insisted for years that I hadn’t really lost it, that the ring was not really gone; that I knew exactly where it was. I had not been careless, forgetting where I’d put it. I had merely been clumsy. The loss of this beloved thing seemed an unjustly difficult consequence to bear.
More than six years passed. Driving home from work one night on a rainy highway, I merged into the right lane to find a car parked, half in the land and half on the shoulder. I swerved, tried to slow, but impact was inevitable.
The car did not survive the accident, though no one was hurt. I don’t know if the “totaled” status was because the damage was so extensive or simply because the car was an ancient Saturn and not worth enough to fix.
My dad picked me up at the scene of the accident. A few days later, I met the insurance adjuster for his assessment; the car would not see active duty again. We started pulling out anything valuable from the trunk. Combing through the accumulated books in the front seat and the CDs in the console.
As I looked the car over for a final time, I was still in shock that I’d managed to total something – it was easily the biggest and most expensive thing I’d ever broken (though both a court and some insurance arbiters ruled I wasn’t actually at fault). We’d purchased the car just before our wedding, I mused.
And then it hit me.
Is there a way to pull out the seats?
There, amidst ancient goldfish crackers and broken crayons, was my wedding ring.
Our wedding rings cost next to nothing. Which was good, actually, because in the weeks leading up to our wedding we had a significant cash flow problem – I was only working part-time; we’d just bought a car. We had taken our giant coin jars into the bank in order to cover the cost. (Other things paid for from coin jar accumulations over the years of our relationship include tips for the movers when we moved to our first parsonage, and Fiona’s second car seat.) Our wedding rings cost next to nothing, far less than even the replacement value of the aged car, but (don’t tell my beloved) finding mine, especially after so many years, made the loss of the car worthwhile. It felt downright miraculous.
It wasn’t, of course. No miracle in dropping something somewhere you can’t reach and then moving the obstacle to nab it. But something lost and then found? To someone accustomed to brokenness beyond hope of repair? That feels a lot like grace.
Bromleigh McCleneghan is on maternity leave with daughter #3, but starting in July will serve as Associate Pastor for Ministry with Families at Union Church of Hinsdale in suburban Chicago. Her first book Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired Anxious People came out in 2012. Her next book, on sex, love and faith, will be published by Harper One next year.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.