A few months back I was sure I’d put my engagement/wedding ring on the bedside table – the ring I’ve had for 15 years. The one we bought in South Africa.
I was sure I’d put the ring on that bedside table – the one with the crackly, white primer I’d never actually gotten around to painting with a top coat. I can see it in my mind’s eye – right next to the lamp with the crooked, hand-me-down shade.
But the next morning the ring wasn’t in the spot I remembered before turning off the light.
I looked everywhere.
I moved the bed, the table, basically half the room got shoved up against the opposite wall so I could search better and deeper.
I found plenty of stray socks and dust and the other gross odds and ends that lurk under beds. But no ring.
I told myself it wasn’t time to worry yet. That once we packed up for our big move, the ring would be unearthed from beneath all the chaotic living we did in that rental.
But on the last day of our lease on a hot and sweaty June morning when the room was bare naked there was still no sign of the ring. There was a just a small pile of leftover life – dust bunnies, hair ties, and such – crouching in the middle of the floor. I got down on my hands and knees and sifted through it. I was certain the ring had to still exist somewhere inside that room.
But beyond hope, it didn’t.
My diamond ring given to me by my Michigan boy on bended knee along the lakes of Notre Dame campus was officially gone.
I could feel my heart tell me that maybe now was, after all, time to be sad.
That was three weeks ago. Since then we’ve moved and unpacked and painted and sat out on the front porch with the neighbors and learned more about koi fish than I realized there was to know.
And then we flew to Florida for two weeks with my in laws and tonight my daughter is sleeping her soft, snuffly breaths on her couch-pillow bed right beside me. And soon Peter will crawl in next to me and under cover of the fan we’ll unpack the best parts of today together. And he’ll tell me that he likes having her in the room with us. And I’ll agree. Because her soft breathing rings us around with reminders of what a gift her life is.
My sons keep running between their wonder on the beach and Pete and I to show, to declare, to proclaim and present their discoveries. And Zoe is their dedicated shadow, the three of them racing along the shore.
Stretched out in a line that lights up between the horizon and the sunset they run.
They run rings between us.
And I braid Zoe’s hair to keep its curls out of the tangly fingers of the sea. I braid her hair in the mornings and unbraid it at night and her curls ring around my fingers.
There are some things that are true whether we believe them or not.
There are some things that are true whether we have proof of them or not. I don’t need a tan line on my left hand, ring finger to tell me that.
Baby girls who whisper their, “I love you’s” over and over again through lisped teeth and wide, blue eyes. Whose snores seem to be ripples of that love that carry on late into the night. Boys who fist bump the air when the rain stops and they get their desperate wish to run out onto the beach.
And Pete and I smile in quiet relief that we didn’t need to remember sippy cups or diapers for this trip. No one needs a pacifier. It’s a major milestone.
We hold hands quietly while our kids shriek in delight. Wave after wave of salty joy crashing up to their ankles. We walk in their footsteps and this is what fifteen years of commitment looks like.
The man who carries the buckets and the shovels and the bags and stops to photograph his nearly-ten-year old’s desperately proud abs.
These moments ring around us and the ocean stretches out in front and this is married.
This is our promise that we keep making again and again between the dishes and the bedtime dance and the routine of reminding the boys to brush for more than 20 seconds each. Rings of dirt around the bathtub and bright blue tooth paste rings around the sink.
Rings of what feel like never-ending requests for stories or water or “just one more bowl of cereal before bed.”
Tight monkey hugs ringed around our ribs and three faces peering over their shoulders to make sure we’re still there as they run wild at the world.
We are. Tonight and tomorrow. Between bad dreams and skies on fire with wonder. As I tuck myself between the band of his arms and realize that I never did lose my ring in the first place.