Seven years ago, when Henry was on his back changing the oil in his truck, and I was sitting on the steps of the cabin talking to him while he worked, we decided to get married. I don’t remember exactly how it came out, but there was definitely no flashmob, no diamonds, and not even a guy down on one knee. It was distinct, though, and later that day we drove into town and told our parents what we had decided. No one was too surprised, but it was still exciting. We were 23 years old.
Before the wedding, I decided that I wanted to buy “real” rings, not something out of a candy machine or tattoos or whatever. I didn’t need them to be fancy or custom made. My only specifications were round and gold, but they had to have “value” in some way that, even now, I can’t quite explain. On a weekday morning, we walked up to the jewelry section in a Fred Meyer store, but the gate was down because they didn’t open until 8, and it was only quarter ’til. We hung out until the saleswoman arrived and ushered us in for our 10 minutes of ring shopping. As we were about to leave with our purchases, the saleswoman admitted that she thought we were trying to buy watch batteries because that was the only reason anyone ever showed up so early. I think we picked Fred Meyer Jewelers because the idea of buying a gold ring at a grocery store seemed as irreverent as proposing while under a truck or getting married on the county courthouse lawn, which we did a couple weeks later (August 22, 2006 to be exact).
Maybe it was because I lost some weight after we got married or maybe the thing wasn’t the right size to begin with, but my ring never quite fit tightly enough. When I was nervous or bored, I’d slide it on and off my finger absentmindedly. Then one day it flew off my finger without warning and landed on the floor. I started to say things like, “I should take it to someone to get it tightened,” but I never did. On a dark evening two or three years into our marriage, I was feeding my goats, and my ring fell off and landed somewhere among the piles of gold-colored hay and goat poop. I brought out the flashlight and searched for a good long while, but it was really no use. My ring was gone (or at least really really lost), and even though it was completely my fault and even though I really didn’t think it should be a big deal, I cried.
My parents have been married for over 35 years now, and they had wedding rings custom made back in the day. In the years since, my dad’s literally wore through from working in the dirt so much, and my mom took hers off permanently when she developed some kind of skin irritation on her finger. After being ringless for a couple months, my mom offered me her own wedding ring, and it fit me perfectly. I’ve been wearing it ever since, and it feels a lot more special than some corporate jewelry store ring. (Henry finally took his off, rightly concerned for his finger that swells considerably after being stung.)
Dreamy photos of girls going on picnics with their boyfriends/partners/husbands pass through my Instagram feed from time to time, and I ogle at them, wondering what kind of alternate universe those people (some of them actual friends of mine) are living in. Henry and I have never and will never picnic (at least not the shoes-off, blanket down, bread-cheese-wine kind of picnic). When we first got together, we took an overnight road trip down the southern Oregon coast, and I packed a big bag of snacks and sandwich stuff, thinking we’d stop somewhere to assemble a proper lunch. Ten minutes into the drive, Henry had one hand on the wheel and the other pulling out wads of sandwich fixins and stuffing them into his mouth. That was probably the end of any picnic pipe dreams I ever had. Henry and I will also never stroll hand and hand through some cute downtown while window shopping or take a romantic, sprawl-out-by-the-beach/pool vacation together either.
But you know what? This thing that is Us, that’s also a family now (“It’s our anniversary!” Charlotte squealed yesterday.), it’s okay. We’re good, in fact. The everyday is messy for sure, but the sum of the parts adds up to seven years of (mostly) happy memories and good times.
We had a little too much fun with my tripod and the self timer on my camera yesterday even if the photos show us to be the frumpy, partially pajama-clad hillbillies that we really are.