"What has it got in its Pockets?"
When I was 21, on a whim, I bought a ring. It has an interesting history. Its history is probably far more interesting than the ring itself. It is, after all, just a simple, plain gold band. Rather small - it fits the pinkie finger of my left hand. And has done so, for many years. But the history behind this ring actually starts four years before I bought it.
When I was 17, I was engaged. When I was 18, that engagement was broken. I recall that at the time, I was far more heartbroken about losing a girlfriend, than losing a betrothed. But of course, now I realize that this is what I lost. As things turned out, what I lost was the love of my life. But that is an entirely different story.
As I said, the ring I bought is small and gold, and fits my pinkie finger. For awhile, it switched hands, either left or right. But for more than 3 decades, it has always been on my left hand. I recall that when I finally did marry (someone else) at the age of 30, I had to get used to a wedding ring that would rub against that pinky ring – on my left hand. Small battles of irritation and conflict, as if between two siblings.
Over the years, another wedding ring came and went, but the small gold ring always stayed. I recall one year in Vancouver when that ring was pawned for a few days, for 5 dollars. Back then, 5 dollars was enough to float me through a few days until payday. I guess the ring grew a bit of character from living a dangerous life.
But here’s the thing. Various tall tales were spun out about what this ring was supposed to mean. Strange and mystic hidden meanings, obscure, obtuse, and never quite solidifying into anything recognizeable, understandable, or truly meaningful. It never meant those things at all, of course. In and around the rather short times I actually wore real wedding rings that stood for that purpose, other rings have stood the test of time.
Women look at a man’s hands to determine his marital status. Usually this is one of the first things they do. Men do this too, but often let a little bit more time go by.
For 25 years I have always worn 2 particular rings. The little gold ring on my left pinkie, and a larger silver ring on the ring finger of my right hand. Not for the purpose of confusing anyone have I done this. Yet the perspective is interesting. I have a ring on the right ring finger of the wrong hand. Though not gold, but instead, silver. I have a gold ring on the right hand (being the left hand, actually) but wrong finger. So I suppose these rings tell everyone that I’m not married. Or perhaps...that I'm just something else. The conventionality of rings has often been beyond me. I just wear them. And I do have my reasons for doing so.
About 6 years ago, when I was 57 years old, a little girl who was 7 years old at the time, announced that she wanted that gold ring, for her very own self. She had an awfully determined compulsion about that ring. As if she knew something about it that she couldn't possibly have known. After some haggling, I finally agreed that she could have this ring, when she turned 16 (if she could wait that long, and if at the time it still meant something to her.) Only the fates know if I'd ever keep that promise, and they're not tellin'.
Sometime after I turned 61, I finally realized what this little gold ring actually is.
At the time I bought the ring, I was 21. I bought it in the summer of that year. That year was probably the very same year that I would have been married, had my betrothed and I stayed together. Not realizing it for 40 years, I had worn the ring that would have gone on her finger. For much of the time we were together, she did wear a ring that I’d given to her. It was a pinkie signet ring, that fit her ring finger. Her fingers were so slim that it was even a bit loose. I remember this.
So this ring – which for so many years I’d struggled to find a meaning for (other than the fact that I always liked wearing that ring on that finger) – finally arrived at its true meaning.
For 40 years I had worn the ring I would have married her with. I still wear it. Would I surrender it in 3 more years to that 16 year-old? Not without telling her the real story of the ring. And would she still want it, then? That would be another interesting story in itself, wouldn’t it?
Imagine wearing a wedding ring that symbolically represents the one you didn’t marry? (And not consciously knowing this, for 40 years?)
Which is the point of my story.
Truth often arrives, but not in any particular hurry. Though we spin fantastic tales, the real story is often far more simple, and sometimes closer to affairs of the heart we don't wish to discuss. But I kind of like the fact that there exists an exhibit A in this gentle little courtroom drama. Evidence of an undeniable sort. And my favorite part of this story always concerns the obvious question that anyone will eventually get around to asking. How can anyone wear a ring for 40 years and not know its true meaning? The answer to that is remarkably easy. The year before I bought the ring, I put my memories on the shelf. Well, certain memories, anyway. I didn't forget her...no, not ever. I just put those heartaches away, for the purpose of getting on with my life. Which I did do, with remarkable efficiency.
And then, a year later, on that whim, bought the ring. And immediately set my imagination running wild, trying to come up with plausible ideas about what it could mean. If it was a hobbit ring, I could just disappear and cause no end of trouble.