On Buying The Cow

This is going to be long.  Bear with me, or don’t.  But enjoy!  :)

My parents are very good at the “big picture” stuff, at being patient and waiting until the iron is hot to strike, at holding out until the right thing is right in front of them, and at actually knowing what the right thing is — even if no one else can see it.

When I was in high school, for example, they purchased this sensational plot of Californian land: 20 acres, perched atop a hill overlooking the American River, Folsom Lake, and, on a clear day, Sacramento in the distance.  They designed their dream home, and pored over the plans for ages, perfecting every corner and detail.  But for one reason after another, it couldn’t be built.   They’ve held onto that land, though; they care for it: trimming the trees, clearing the brush, planting daffodils.  Every time I go home for a visit, we “go up to the lot” to have a look around, and I can tell that my parents are not just seeing their property, but are imagining a beautiful future.  Even if it’s not that dream house; even if it’s not on that perfect lot.  It’s the big picture.  It’s the two of them.  It’s possibility.  It’s their beautiful future.

I didn’t get this “big picture” gift.  Or, probably more aptly, I haven’t yet developed it — not fully, at least.  You see, before I moved to Boston three years ago to get my master’s degree, I had a pretty bad habit of declaring things with great and unarguable finality.  If you had to define this personality trait with one word, it would be “shortsighted.”  I’d also take “unimaginative” and “inflexible.”

“Stubborn as an ox,” works, too. :)

My favorite pronouncement at that particular time was that, “I WAS SINGLE!” (Yes, all caps.  Every time.  Unarguable finality, remember?)  In fact, just a few days before I moved, I went to a local drugstore and bought myself a ring.  But not just any ring: a fake wedding ring.  A fake wedding ring that I planned to wear as a means to deter the advances of any potential suitors, serious or otherwise. (Side note: I meant no conceit in that preemption.  It’s a scientific fact that all ladies on public transportation get hit on.  You can’t argue with science.)  And I did wear it.  All the time.  It wasn’t foolproof, but it did its job.

I was wearing it a whole whopping month later, when my new roommate (and now very best friend) and her boyfriend (now husband) said, “We have someone we’d like you to meet.”  And I was wearing it when I rolled my eyes and replied, “I AM SINGLE!”  And I was still wearing it when I finally met Glen.  Or, I should probably say, “when I finally met Honey.”  Because if you follow me by any electronic means, that’s all I’ve ever referred to him by: Honey.  But it’s not just an online thing — that’s all we call each other.  And yes, that’s gross and sappy, but it’s us.  Truth be told, I cannot remember the last time Glen called me Molly to my face; even imagining it sounds weird.

Anyway.  I was wearing that ring a month later, when I finally met Glen.  And I kept wearing it for awhile, because although I enjoyed his company to a frightening degree, need I remind you: I WAS SINGLE! (And also “stubborn as an ox,” ahem.)  We laughed about the ring together.  He’d been single for several years, too; he knew where I was coming from.

My stubbornness wore out pretty quickly when, two weeks later, he asked me to be his girlfriend.  I believe my exact response was, “OF COURSE I WILL BE!”  A week after that, completely by coincidence, my parents visited the east coast.  I said, “I know it’s soon, but you can meet them now, or you can meet them in a year or so.  It’s up to you.”  And wouldn’t you know it, he said, “I’d love to meet them!”  And he did, and it was hilarious and wonderful, complete with a 300-year-old hotel room with crooked floors, a stuffed baby chick and a raging halloween party.  But that’s a story for another time.

Later, my mother confessed to me that, on the plane ride home, while my father was drawing up yet another budget for building that elusive dream house, he turned to her and asked, “Roughly how much money do I need to set aside for Molly’s wedding?”  And that sound you heard at the time was my jaw hitting the floor, because my father is one tough cookie and one heck of a good judge of character.  Now, my parents have always managed to find something to like about every guy I’ve ever dated — even if it was just one thing.  Admittedly, this was harder at certain times than others.  (Though if I’m being honest, it was hard all the time.  Yeah, I dated those guys.)  But that one simple question, asked so honestly, was easily the greatest affirmation I could have ever received that I’d met someone worthy of my time and affection.  That this was a “big picture” kind of guy.

The next day I put that fake wedding ring in a jewelry box and forgot it existed.

A year and a half later, we moved in together.  A year after that, I started noticing that I’d developed new smile lines (Alright, fine.  Wrinkles.), which I happily attribute to the fact that I’ve laughed more in the past two and a half years than I ever used to in my life before Him.  We started talking recently about how we’d hit our stride — everything is just so dang easy.

And earlier this month, a couple of easy days after my easy birthday, Honey walks in the front door with a package.  He says, “I bought you something else for your birthday, but it was on backorder, so it just arrived today.  I’m sorry it’s not wrapped.”  Out of the box he pulls:

I laugh (I’m always laughing) because it’s yellow, because it’s adorable, because it’s symbolic, because we’ve needed a covert sugar bowl for a really long time, because it’s us.  He stands behind me while I open it up to more closely examine that precious honey dipper.  I lift the lid, and tied to a string hanging from the underside is that old (now very tarnished) fake wedding ring.  I make some kind of noise that I imagine is similar to a vulture asking a question — sort of a high-pitched squawk.  I laugh, “This is my old ring!”  And when I turn to look at him, to understand the meaning, he’s there, on one knee in our kitchen.

And with my hand in his he says, “Will you be my lawfully wedded honey?”

I’ll give you a moment to gag on that bit of sweetness. :)

I believe my exact response was, “OF COURSE I WILL BE!”  Except when I said it this time, I cried a little bit.  And smiled the wide, stupid smile of uncontainable joy.  And laughed a whole lot more.  And then I talked to more people in one afternoon than I have in the last decade, including my father who just said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better man to love you.”

Things have been a bit of a whirlwind ever since.  Yet all the while, I can’t help but feel like I’m standing on top of a hill, looking out over the distance and seeing the big picture.  Seeing possibility and a beautiful future.  Our beautiful future. :)

*  *  *  *  *

So.  The Ring (which definitely deserves capitalization, given that it’s all anyone asks me about lately).  We’d actually been looking at rings for a couple of months and found zilch, nada, zip.  Nothing was calling to me.  Any time I found something I sort of liked, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to change about it.  For awhile I didn’t even want one at all — I couldn’t justify the cost.  Then we were going to use a family heirloom diamond (a diamond from my great great grandmother that was used in my mother’s original engagement ring), but I still couldn’t find a solitaire setting that didn’t make me yawn.  We even started to design one ourselves, but the process was causing me more stress than joy.

And then I walked into a teeny little jewelry store not that far from my parents’ plot of land.  This was the first thing I saw when I entered, and suddenly I was finished looking:

It’s a late-1800s antique platinum, yellow and white gold dinner ring.  It’s imperfectly perfect.  It’s nontraditional.  It’s unique.  It is very, very me.

And that’s my story.  Bravo to you if you read the whole thing.

*  *  *  *  *

P.S.  My mom and dad also got engaged in a kitchen. :)

May 21, 2010 - 12:53 pm

Caroline Joy MOLLY I just want to HUG you and jump up and down squealing! What a beautiful story, and how beautifully you told it! You are an amazing storyteller (photos and words). I am so happy for you! That’s the kind of proposal that’s truly romantic. :) Seriously, we must get together some time, somehow. I want to see that ring in person! :D

May 21, 2010 - 1:06 pm

j I’m really glad you wrote this, thanks for sharing.

May 22, 2010 - 12:27 am

Mary Towne Molly –

What a wonderful story, wonderfully told. Congratulations (and keep writing).


May 23, 2010 - 5:10 pm

very best friend I love you, I love your soon-to-be husband, I love your ring, and I love your story. I’m so excited!!

May 24, 2010 - 5:57 pm

Molly Thanks to each and every one of you. I was a little unsure when I wrote it, but now I’m very glad I did. :)

May 24, 2010 - 8:25 pm

ginny rattner For so many years I’ve tracked your independent travels, studies, jobs and adventures. You and my daughter, Jessica, are such authentic women.Your quest for autonomy, for truth in your work, to find avenues for your genius to thrive….has been ‘the road less travelled by’.But look what you’ve found: true love. (enter sound track from the Princess Bride).May your lives be blessed with good health, great adventures and deep love & respect for one another. Mazel tov! Ginny

May 26, 2010 - 8:30 pm

Christa Molly- what a beautifully written story. I truly enjoyed reading it and imagining how that special even went (in my head). Thanks for sharing!
Congratulations!!! The fun begins :)

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