Thursday, April 02, 2009

Silver Wedding Rings

Like I said before, I've been thinking a lot about marriage. So here's another post on marriage.

My husband and I have sterling silver wedding rings. We bought them in the year AFTER we were married. To me, they are a more appropriate symbol of marriage than gold rings. At least, of my marriage.

Tim and I agreed when we got engaged that we would avoid all unnecessary debt, both because of the wisdom of it and because it's a commandment. As a first step in that direction, we agreed not to buy wedding rings until we could pay cash for them, thinking that we'd save our pennies for a year and then go ring shopping like so many people do before they marry (and so many get into debt over). So our non-gold rings constantly remind me of the commitment we made to each other to enter our marriage in wisdom and with the commandments in mind, despite what tradition or culture we lived among.

Later in that first year of marriage, we took a long trip all across the country. One day (it was a rainy day), we were in Boston and wanted to go to Plymouth. My uncle, who we were visiting at the time, suggested that we not go that day because the weather was so cold and miserable. We considered his advice and then made our own decision--to go to Plymouth anyway and enjoy the weather. It turned out to be a WONDERFUL visit. We were the only people there besides the costumed historical interpreters of the site. We rescued a turtle that was trapped high-centered on a fence rail. We spent a long time discussing freedom of religion, cultural mores, life in that time period, our dreams and thoughts and life passions. It was a fantastic day, and as the park closed, we went into the gift shop and bought Tim a sterling silver ring that is unique in being concave in shape. It's a replica of a ring found in a burned-down theater; there is an inscription on it in old french that says something like "don't forget me." This ring cost us $25, and we paid cash.

This ring is far more meaningful to us than a gold band would be. For one thing, it is attached to a wonderful memory of us choosing our own path and it being fantastic, despite the rain. This is awfully symbolic of our whole lives so far--we've ended up choosing a non-standard path that many people advised us not to take, and it's been wonderful, despite the rain. It also has been interesting that the unique, concave shape makes it as comfortable to Tim as any of the expensive "comfort bands" he tried on when we were looking at gold rings years ago--for hundreds of dollars less. We've found this to be true in many areas of our lives--often there is another, simpler, cheaper solution that is just as good as the expensive ones. It has been fun for him to be able to tell people the story of the ring. And I suppose it ought to be significant that it has that inscription, but I've never thought much about that, despite the fact that he travels without me a lot, and often to places where I know other women are looking at him with googly eyes because he has that gorgeous voice, is handsome, and was singing on stage. The memories attached to that ring are far more valuable than any simple gold band ever could be.

Sometime in the next year, Tim found for me an exact copy of a puzzle ring I'd worn all the years we were dating that I loved but lost. This sterling silver puzzle ring became my wedding ring. I always thought it was a gorgeous ring, with four interwoven bands that fit perfectly together, but only if you know how to do it. Only one boy ever fit the ring together perfectly without my help--and it wasn't Tim. Why do I mention this? Because it reminds me often that in a marriage, we're not supposed to have to figure our spouses out without help like a puzzle. We're supposed to work together, and to show our spouses (and outright tell them) what we believe, need, think, want, etc, and how they and we can best fit together to make one beautiful whole. Fitting with your spouse is not supposed to be a challenge that you conquer without help. It's okay to teach each other things. After all, I couldn't figure out how to put the ring back together myself either--I had to be taught, too.

The other thing this ring reminds me of is that together we are strong, while alone we are not. Over the years, I've found that I break rings frequently. Thin, delicate, beautiful rings always crack when I wear them for extended periods. This ring is made up of four distinct bands, any one of which I would break in a few months. Together, they are unbreakable. Our marriage should make us stronger as a whole than either of us is as an individual.

But why sterling silver? Why not have these precious rings re-made in gold so we have that "eternally shining" luster?

Because marriage isn't like that.

Silver is more symbolic. See, silver is bright to the point of whiteness when it is polished. But, left alone and untouched, it turns black fairly quickly and can't be restored to luster without some work or some caustic chemicals. BUT if you wear a silver ring constantly, it stays bright and polished just by constant use. Silver doesn't tarnish unless it is neglected.

THIS is how a marriage is. Not automatically, eternally bright. It stays bright to the point of beautiful whiteness quite readily, as long as you use it and wear it constantly. If you neglect it, it quickly tarnishes and looks dull and black and is hard to restore. But if you give it daily attention and care, it stays bright and beautiful.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

Wow, these are great stories, thank you for sharing them. I've always thought puzzle rings were intriguing -- in the Elizabethan period, three-part puzzle rings were often used as wedding rings. When an engagement was formally made, the woman would keep one part, the man another, and a witness to the engagement would keep the third. The rings would be joined and given to the bride during the marriage ceremony. It's been speculated that Shakespeare used such a ring when he married Anne Hathaway. Interesting, hey? Just a little tidbit I thought you'd enjoy.