When I first got married nearly 2 decades ago (don't ask how, but my blushing young bride remains 18) we were broke college students who ran out of money and had to leave. Two weeks after our wedding I shipped off to Basic Training and AIT in the Army. The ring on her finger was her mother's first engagement and wedding ring, the one on my finger was a cheap, simple ring that was affordable (also read "less than twenty bucks). I have never been a big jewelry wearer, but treasured that ring. That simple ring got me through Basic, AIT, and to my first field exercise. The morning we left for the field was my 21st birthday, so I bought a six pack because I was legal, but left it in the car as I went to play Army with the real Army toys (an M-16, HMMWV, T-16, SIAGL, PADS, and some 155 mm howitzers, Huaah!). My next field exercise was a few months later, and it was chilly. The Northwest weather almost always was. The first night as we attempted to drive the Hummvee from under the camouflage nets without taking down the nets I had to remove my gloves and somewhere between riding on the roof of the Hummer and jumping back down I lost my ring. I was devastated. Six guys threw light discipline (also read "no light") to the wind and searched with me to no avail. I had no idea what I would tell my young bride.
She took it much better than I did. Nonchalantly she said, "We were going to buy you a better ring anyway, now we have to." It was another six months, but we bought it. There's a funnier purchase story about our first TV, but that's a different post. This ring was nice. Comfort fit, the right size, still a simple gold band design, but all in all, a very nice ring. I was proud of it. This ring lasted much longer. It lasted through some really rocky times. It lasted through two rocky times in the marriage where once my still 18-year-old bride took it and engraved "For Better or Worse" inside it, the other time I was pretty sure I'd never wear it again. That was one of the few (also read 3) times it was not on my finger. When things got rough, I'd slide it over my knuckle to the middle part of my finger and turn it feeling the engraved words on the inside. Sometimes I'd do it even when things were going great just to feel close to my wife when she wasn't physically with me. I cannot count the number of times I did that.
One day, while working with a log splitter I slammed a log onto the splitter without removing my hand first. It really hurt (as you can imagine). After I took my glove off I saw that my wedding ring was smashed into a shape that matched a squashed pipe (for engineers outside the Deep South it's really called arched pipe but Southern is my native tongue). A few days later we got it repaired and put it back on my finger.
This lasted for several months until a crack appeared. At first I thought it was symbolic of the fracture our marriage had weathered and endured. Then it cracked all the way through, occasionally pinching my finger. Again, it was indicative of reminding me I didn't want to go through that again (the hand smashing or the marital strife). Then, at Ignite 2010, the unthinkable happened. I was explaining the crack to a friend who had noticed it and explaining the symbolism, when the ring broke. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out, but an over-analyzing engineer could easily see that it was where the ring had been squashed.
My young bride still took it better than I, and in a few short weeks (in advance of a work trip) bought me a temporary replacement ring. This one more closely matches the original ring's price, and has a revolving portion that includes the Lord's Prayer written by a Chinese Catholic.
It is not the fanciest of rings, nor the most memorable. It amazes me that I find opportunities to talk about it and what it symbolizes as often as I do. The symbolism I talk about is not merely the symbolism of marriage, though to say "mere" and "Marriage" is a juxtaposition that shouldn't be. I am the man I am, because I am the husband I am. Separating me from my wife would be like separating the white from rice or the stink from crap. It simply cannot be done and first and foremost my ring is a symbol of that, but it is ever so much more than just an indicator of my committment. It is a sign of history, my ring tells of the steps that got me here and shows the way I'll continue to step.
And no, I'm not in hot water or trying to finagle something out of my wife. It isn't a ploy to get better ChristX presents or to say I'm sorry. I truly love my wife and my life. While my ring doesn't show it at first glance, it says all of that like a huge artichoke with multiple layers and the best part is at the heart.