I was halfway to the office from the hotel, strolling the nice streets of Chicago (the mean streets are a few miles out from my hotel), when I did my thumb-ring-check. Rather than look to see if I was wearing my rings, each thumb touches the ring finger. I do this a few times a day. This time, I was too far along in my commute to fix the situation; but there it was. The dreaded naked finger. In my mind’s eye, I could see them waiting for me on the bathroom ledge.
Great. I hope they’re still there when I get back. In an ugly moment, I pictured someone from “housekeeping” slipping the rings quickly into a white pocketed apron.
The rest of my walk was taken by noting the personal cost if the rings disappear. The wedding ring is a white gold with a few inset diamonds. The gold was never polished, it has a honed look. Rough-hewn, one might say. The decision to change from the original was set when I saw a (much nicer one) on a friend’s finger. His partner had a matching one, and I refer to them as wedding rings – much to the ire of his partner. “We live in a hate state, it would be illegal for us to be married!” I stopped joking about the rings and marriage after that. My friends have been together for over 30 years, more married than many couples in spirit and intent. Yet their partnership simply doesn’t exist in the eyes of Virginia. My ring reminds me of my beloved bride, but it also brings to mind the work to be done for marriage equality. I am more fortunate than my friends: whose 30 years’ love is illegal – while both of my marriages were celebrated and subsidized by the law.
My other ring is a Claddagh ring. A yellow gold intersection of a valentine, hands, and a crown. These represent the three points of a ‘man,’ as told to me: love, loyalty and friendship. Today, the ring usual signals Irish heritage – although a colleague of Thai extraction tells me she wore it as a young girl. “If the heart is pointed out you’re single, if it’s pointed in you’re taken.” The original craftsman, the story goes, lived several hundred years ago. Forcibly apprenticed to a goldsmith in England, he earned his freedom and returned to his native home of Claddagh, in Western Ireland. My bride and I stayed in a bed and breakfast along the raging waters that separate Galway from Claddagh, a stone’s throw from the Spanish Gate. As we strolled through Galway, she surprised me to leading me into Thomas Jones’ jewelers, the sole heir to the Claddagh design – and the only jeweler who can legally engrave “Original” inside the ring. I long owned a Claddagh ring, gifted to me by my sister when I completed my Master’s, but it had grown weak over time and I risked breaking it daily. I left Thomas Jones with my new prize, a solid strong “original” Claddagh. This reminds me of my heritage, the charm of Galway, and yes – the heart is always pointed in.
The rings were still there when I returned to my tiny room in the old Hotel Cass. The remote possibility that they had been lost led to my musing, captured here and shared with you. The mementos did their job that morning, by taking the day off.