An Old Familiar Ring

By Jeffery Cohen

When I was six years old, my grandfather, who was not known for his generosity, surprised everyone by taking me into town on a shopping spree. He bought me a plaid sports jacket and matching trousers, new shoes, a stylish hat with a feather on the side, and he had a ring made for me with my initials. It was the first ring I ever owned and I wore it proudly. A year later I had already outgrown my proudest possession. When my finger began to swell, my mother convinced me that it was time to retire my ring to the cigar box that held my baseball cards, my lucky rabbit’s foot, and the rest of my treasures.

My ring finger remained bare until high school. My classmates and I waited for the day when our class rings were finally distributed. It was a heavy chunk of metal with the school crest and the year 1966 molded into it, my initials engraved inside the shiny band. I showed that ring off for nearly six months, and then I met my first love. In no time I was asking her to be my steady, handing over my class ring as a sign of my commitment. She wrapped tape around the way-too-large ring and slipped it on her tiny finger, giving me her ring in exchange, which I squeezed onto my pinky. We were wearing those rings when we said a tearful goodbye and headed off to different colleges, swearing our undying love. After six weeks apart, the love of my life explained that her undying love…had died. She was returning my ring. That summer, while horsing around in the backyard pool, my ring flew off of my slippery wet finger. I spent days searching every inch of the yard without success, deciding I was just not meant to have a ring.

A year later, a neighbor called. “Did you happen to lose your class ring?”

Last summer,” I explained, wondering why the question.

Well, my dog just came in carrying a ring in her mouth and I think your initials are on the band.” It was a miracle! I got my ring back, swearing never to take it off of my finger again. I only wish I would have remembered that when I removed it to wash my hands in the men’s room at work. By the time I rushed back to the sink where I’d left it, it was gone.

Not really being a jewelry-kind-of-guy, my finger remained bare until I met my wife. Pledging our lives to each other, we exchanged simple gold bands, a promise to love and cherish each other – to wear those rings until death do us part. And I expected to do just that, but as the years passed by, that ring grew tighter and tighter until my finger was nearly turning blue. I decided that I would take it to a jeweler and have it re-sized. With great effort and a half jar of Vaseline, I was able to slide it off. Unfortunately, that slippery ring slipped right out of my hands and seemed to disappear into thin air. Believe me, I searched everywhere. I’m certain it’s still hiding in some unknown crack or crevice.

I visited my mother, hoping she might have an idea of the best way to break the news to my wife. Sad and frustrated, I rationalized. “Rings are just a piece of metal. They have no meaning anyway.”

My mother smiled and shook her head. She held out her right hand and pointed to the gold band on it. “You see this ring? After fifty years of marriage, my mother and father decided to redo their wedding vows. This was the ring my father placed on my mother’s finger at that ceremony on her golden anniversary – eighteen karat orange blossom gold.” Her eyes got teary. “When my mother passed away, I slipped it off of her finger and put it onto mine. Every time I look at it, I see her face, and how happy she looked that day. Rings do have meaning.”

Years later, when my mother died, my father slipped that ring from her finger and put it on his own. He never took it off. When my father passed, I slipped that ring from his finger and put it on my own. Every time I look at it, I see their faces, hear their voices, and I can’t help but remember my mother’s words.

Rings do have meaning.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen

    Jeffery Cohen

    Freelance writer and newspaper columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Women’s’ Keats Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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