Grandma Hibbard’s ring

As a young farmer in upstate New York in the 1920s, Grandpa could only afford a modest diamond ring when he asked my grandmother to marry him. It didn’t look like much compared to the two and a half carat diamond ring that her aunt had been given when she was engaged to the French man many years before.
But what did size say about love anyway? Within weeks of the aunt’s wedding, the French man disappeared, never to be seen again – leaving his bride with only memories of their short time together and that impressive diamond.
Grandma accepted the humble ring, Grandpa and his dairy farm in the rocky hills of New York. They had a Christmas eve ceremony, establishing Dec. 24th as an annual double celebration of their anniversary and Christmas.
Their marriage bonded through the years of farming during the Depression, an unexpected set of twin sons, a daughter and a late-in-life still-born child.
My childhood Christmas eves in their home overflowed with presents, favorite family dishes and playing with our new toys. In spite of years of poor health in their latter years, we celebrated their 50th Christmas eve of togetherness – but not their 51st.
Over the course of the next few years, my grandmother entrusted her treasures to family members. My mother received Grandpa’s simple engagement ring. After my grandmother died, my mother passed the symbol of my grandparents’ long marriage down to me as the oldest granddaughter.
My parents’ celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary about the time doctors told my mother that she had an advanced cancer. Before the year was out, she had joined my grandparents.
Like my grandparents, my husband and I did not have a lot of money – at least not enough for five sons and a daughter to have absolutely everything that their friends had. That didn’t stop them from wanting it all.
As a teenager, my daughter especially wanted a gold ring. I did not see how we could fulfill her desire – until, I remembered my grandmother’s engagement ring. It was real gold with a real diamond and it fit her big finger. I gave her the ring to wear. It wasn’t much compared to her friends, but she wore it proudly because she had a diamond ring with a history.
When our church youth director noticed it, she informed him that it had been her great-grandmother’s engagement ring. The youth director listened skeptically. He could not believe anyone would entrust that kind of ring to one so young.
She wore the ring sporadically until she received her own engagement ring and grandma’s ring went back into my jewelry box. We made detailed plans for her wedding including specific items to fulfill the traditional something old, new, borrowed and blue.
Her dress was new. She borrowed a hoop skirt slip from a sister-in-law. Her fiancé had given her a blue sapphire ring. We even found a tuppence for her shoe at a local antique dealer’s shop. However, at the last minute her plans for something old – a family handkerchief – literally disintegrated when it was washed.
We scrambled for a replacement until we remembered Grandma’s ring. My daughter slipped it on her right hand and for the second time in nearly 75 years, grandmother’s engagement ring went to the altar and on to the new home.
It isn’t much. It’s an old, very simple ring, but, I pray it symbolizes the beginning of another “till death do us part” marriage of many decades.