Gift Horses and Rings

Six years ago your dad and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. He decided to give me a ring, and he asked what I wanted it to look like. I described an elaborate design with rubies interspersed with diamonds – not symmetrical, not a repeating pattern, but various sizes and shapes serving as a metaphor for the years we had shared. Ah it was a beautiful thing. I could see it so clearly! He went away with a puzzled look. A small box was soon on display on our dining room table. I walked around chortling about good things coming in small boxes. The day came and I cooked a feast. Over dessert your dad insisted that it was time to open the box. I took forever – exclaiming over the paper, unpeeling the ribbon, slowly lifting the lid and there was the ring. Solidly cushioned in its luxury box – a practical band, a symmetrical ring with an alternating pattern of rubies and diamonds that said, “Over and over the same damn thing!” And there was your dad with an eager apologetic look that said, “Sometimes you ask too much.” Isn’t “dissembling a polite word for faking it?” Anyway, that’s what I did – a pathetic imitation of pleasure and surprise – enough to forestall disappointment. I wore it for a while, groaning inside whenever the little band caught my eye. Then one day I buried it in my underwear drawer – cushioned once again in its beautiful coffin. Five years and a lifetime later, tired of wearing my great aunt’s ring, I opened the box and looked. There was a practical little band with a bit of glimmer in alternating rubies and diamonds. Nice colors and a nice feel — nothing even vaguely metaphoric. It wasn’t the fantasy I wanted. It was the one I got. These days I grin when it catches my eye, a metaphor for two decades that brought two children to two parents who are learning to get along.

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