Tuesday, April 21, 2009

College Bling Lost in Plain Sight

© 2009 Leighann Lord

Not a lot of people wear their college ring, but it’s a touch more convenient than sporting a framed degree around your neck. I still wear my ring for sentimental reasons and was quite distraught recently when I lost it. "Where’s the last place you saw it?" my Husband asked as delicately as he could. "Right in front of me!" It was in my dresser drawer, tucked inside my travel jewelry case and then it was gone. I should have been comforted by the fact that at least I lost the ring in the house, but I’ve known stuff to go missing in there for years.

Sentimental pack rat that I am, I still have my Catholic high school ring. The choices back then were very basic: gold or silver band, red or blue stone. The bigger deal was Junior Ring Day. I received my ring in a lovely year end ceremony, after which the race was on. The tradition was to get as many people as possible to turn your ring twice to the right, and kiss you on the cheek so you wouldn’t become a nun. Apparently it worked, since the vocations are on steep decline.

Sadly, there was no college ring day. Rings were mailed directly to students from the company. Although FedEx is full service it seemed slightly inappropriate to ask the delivery guy to turn my ring and kiss me, though I’m sure he would have obliged.

What my college ring lacked in pomp and circumstance, it made up for in choice. You could order whatever your heart desired: gold, white gold, silver, platinum, diamonds and rings in all sizes from pinky to thumb. My high school ring cost about S75. My personally selected, hand-crafted college ring clocked in at about $463, and that was with the switch from diamonds to cubic zirconias. Where was a poor unemployed college student going to get the money to pay for that? Oh, Daddy!

It pains me to admit this now, but there was a time in my life when I primarily saw my parents as biological ATM machines. My Father says I had a way of saying, "Daddy" that made him reach in Pavlovian fashion for his wallet. The exchange would go like this:

"How much and for what?"
"To buy a present for Mommy’s birthday."
he’d say, handing me a $20 bill.
"No Daddy. A ‘nice’ present."
He’d fork over a few more bills, I give him a great big hug and run out the door. He’d holler after me that he wanted to see a receipt, "And I want my change!"

I always brought my Dad back his change. He had a thing about that. Not bringing it back, just assuming I could keep it, was akin to stealing. That exchange usually went something like:

"Here’s your change, Daddy."
"Hold onto it for me."
A big cheesy grin on my face: "Thanks, Daddy."
Asking for a little cash here and there was one thing, but checks made me nervous. My Dad almost never hesitated but I always felt bad asking for "big" money. I wasn’t a total Spoiled Brat Diva. I saw how hard my parents worked and I tried – as well as any self absorbed young person could – not to take them for granted. I doubted my Dad would come across with the ducats for a mere bauble that was four times the price of the high school version. I surmised that the "But it’s really cute" argument wouldn’t quite cut it.

I walked around with the order form in my book bag for days waiting for the right words and the right time. The latter was, as usual, the Sunday dinner table. The right words were elegant and dignified, and went something like, "Please, please, please, please, please, Daddy!" Now my pitch wasn’t just directed at my Dad. My Mom had to be on board for this as well or, Daddy’s Girl or not, it wasn’t gonna happen.

I augmented my verbal plea with a current college transcript showing my stellar grades. To remind my parents what a great daughter I was and how easy they had it, I included news clippings and statistics about young people my age having babies, committing crimes and doing drugs. To demonstrate that I really was trying to be mindful of their wallet, I showed them the brochure with all the expensive rings I hadn’t chosen. "Egads people, I’m saving you a fortune!"

Long time married couples have the amazing ability to communicate without speaking. My parents exchanged a very familiar, long-suffering glance that seemed to say, "Whose idea was it to have more children? You hold her down and I’ll get the belt."

You can see why losing this ring, even in the house, felt awful. I thought about bringing in a search and rescue team but my Cocker Spaniel, Rolie, is not that kind of dog. He’ll chase a few squirrels or the FedEx man, but that’s about it. Unless my ring were wrapped in Rolie’s favorite luncheon meat — low sodium ham – he wasn’t gonna find it. I simply had to trust that my ring would turn up. My jewelry Karma, however, continued to be out of wack.

Later that same day I had a hard time putting on my Mother’s wedding ring. Her fingers are slightly larger than mine so I wear her original wedding band as a thumb ring. On this occasion I couldn’t even squeeze it past the tip of my finger. Either I was retaining copious amounts of water, or my body was going through its own rapid and radical version of climate change. When I looked at my Mom’s ring more closely, I saw that my college ring – which is small enough to wear on my pinky – had somehow gotten lodged inside. Woo hoo!

I was incredibly grateful to find this cherished memento especially since my family doesn’t have a happy history with lost rings. Very early on in their marriage my Mom lost her engagement ring. They’ve been married for more than 50 years and it’s still a sore subject. I joked about The Great Ring Debacle shortly after I had gotten engaged, but I was the only one who found it funny. "What?" I said to my scowling parents, "Too soon?"

Replacing my school ring at today’s prices could have proven prohibitive, and I suspect this one would have been on me. All the transcripts, news clippings, and pouting in the world would not have convinced my parents to foot the bill again. My Dad never replaced my Mom’s lost engagement ring, so at this point it’s safe to say it’s probably not on his Bucket List.

Earlier that day, while looking for my ring, I vowed to myself that I would not replace it. "That’ll teach me," I thought. But I know me. I would have relented after a few days of wearing my mahogany framed degree Flavor Flav style around my neck.

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

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