Back in 1968, Steve and I were college kids, scrambling to get married before I “started showing,” to use the popular vernacular of the times. We counted our cash and scraped up a little over a hundred dollars between us. With a baby on the way and college to finish, we found a Columbia Merchandise Catalog and sent away for a ring with a diamond that looked, in the photo, like a cocktail ring Elizabeth Taylor might wear.
Ten days later, on a Saturday morning, Steve presented me with a parcel still wrapped in its brown shipping paper. I used my butter knife to cut the Scotch tape and opened the plastic case. Inside was a microscopic diamond in a 10-carat white gold setting. The engagement ring had a swerve to the band where the wedding ring would mate up. I glanced at the wedding ring; it looked like a fishhook or a beer can opener. With my girlish fantasies blown to smithereens, I tried to smile.
On our wedding day, my rings were blessed by the priest for a life of happy ever-afters. Joined, the set looked better together, but each ring had a difficult time settling in to marriage. They seemed awkward and self-centered, each wanting to do its own thing instead of working as a team. I visited a jeweler and had them soldered together.
Eventually, despite fillings and repairs, the gold wore thin. On our 25th Anniversary, my husband bought me a white gold anniversary ring with a circle of small diamonds. I wore that as my wedding ring for the next fifteen years. When my husband’s tiny Portuguese grandmother passed away, I inherited her gold ring and had it cut and soldered onto my band. I thought my little ring family was complete. But life sometimes brings surprises.
Last year my mother passed. Among her jewelry was an assortment of gold and diamond rings, including a man’s pinkie ring. “It’s George Mort’s, I think,” my sister said.
George and Loulla Mort were a colorful couple who drove into our lives on a hot summer afternoon in 1962, to inquire about renting my grandmother’s bunkhouse. George had been a riverboat gambler and Loulla a brothel madam, as close as we could tell. She had a son whom the county took away when he was a baby. They had traveled the country, making a living playing Five-Card Stud and various other side jobs. They rented from my grandmother, off and on, for a decade. When George died, Loulla traded his pinkie ring for back rent and Grandma let her stay on until she “lost her mind” as they used to say, and the county took her away. Grandma looked in on her at the nursing home until she passed.
I wear George’s ring now. It’s a platinum filigree art nouveau diamond ring with a beveled diamond that sparkles in the light.
I smile every time I look down at the hodge-podge collection of memories on my finger. Fifty years will do that for a person; one ends up with a lot of recollections—and if you’re lucky, you get a good man, too. So this week is our 50th Anniversary. Where did the time fly?