Maw Maw's wedding band fit just right.
Fat fingers and big earlobes run in my family on my father’s side.
When my wedding band went missing a couple of years ago, I put off replacing it. I needed to measure my finger and get something custom-made to accommodate its girth, and I didn’t want to suffer the indignity. (Upon picking up my sister Julie’s engagement ring, a friend once remarked: “What is this, a napkin ring?”)
I hoped the narrow gold band my husband, Jason, slid on my finger in 2000 would turn up. Not that he was able to slide the ring on. He had to give it a bit of a shove.
As I waited for my ring to surface, my sister, mother, and I traveled to our home state of Mississippi to celebrate the too-short, joyful life of Ivy, daughter of my cousin, Andy and his wife Brandi. Ivy died of complications from type 1 diabetes at age 31.
After the service and the requisite face-stuffing and story-recounting at Andy and Brandi’s house, we returned to my cousin Richie’s house. She brought out various items saved from the belongings of our grandmother, Willie Mae Puckett, known to us as Maw Maw.
Among them was a collection of ancient children’s books, a box of hand-written recipes, and a safety pin containing items Richie found in an envelope labeled “my treasures.” The envelope included the dog tags of her sons, a men’s class ring, a women’s class ring, an engagement ring with a cluster of tiny diamonds, and a gold wedding band.
My grandmother’s treasures
I removed the wedding band from the safety pin and slid it onto my finger. No force required, it fit perfectly. Maw Maw’s ring is a tad wider than the one I lost. But I don’t have to worry about the ring getting stuck on my finger if my hands swell a bit. The band doesn’t strangle my finger, like a cinched waist on a dress, threatening to cut off circulation.
I asked Richie if I could take it. “That’s exactly where that ring belongs,” Richie said. “On your finger.”
My grandmother’s ring
The ring reminds me of Maw Maw, her thrift and her appreciation of simple pleasures and daily routines.
She dried all her laundry on a line, wrote letters on the back of canceled checks, and saved rubber bands on doorknobs.
She saved everything. Richie recalled that she saved her panty hose when they had runs in them, and used them to stuff rag dolls she made for us kids. She saved greeting cards for me to use for crafts.
When she ran out of thread, she saved the wooden spool, along with the lid from some sort of jar, like a pickle jar. On a lazy afternoon, she would squirt a drop of Ivory liquid and some water in the lid, and take us on the back porch. We dipped one end of the wooden spool in soap and blew into the other end to make bubbles.
My cousin Lee Ann remembered that Maw Maw kept a needle for mending stuck in the hem of a curtain, so she would always know where it was.
She found a new purpose for any container. Richie found among her things a pretty black box that once contained the loose powder she wore. It now contained the bobby pins she used to train her hair to curl while she slept. I took the box for my teen, an old soul who appreciates old things.
Maw Maw’s powder box sits on my teen’s shelf along with hand-me-down watches and rings
At Maw Maw’s funeral many years ago, we winced at the excessive makeup applied by the mortuary makeup artist. That was not our grandmother. But my sister noticed she shared the casket with her ever-present purse. That was definitely Maw Maw. She probably had a sewing kit in there.
When I look down at the ring, I think about my grandparents’ 50-year marriage and my own marriage of 22 years, a more modern union in the division of household chores. Jason does most of the cooking and deep cleans the bathroom. My grandfather cut the grass. Yet our marriage is grounded in our domestic routines, just as my grandparents’ was.
Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Puckett
Patti and Jason Ghezzi
The ring also reminds me of Ivy, whose celebration of life brought us to rural Mississippi. She was Maw Maw’s beloved great-grandchild and a bright light in our family. Like Maw Maw, Ivy was a homebody. She loved fishing and hanging out with her family. Her sister was her best friend.
Ivy Lauren Elkins
As Richie said in her eulogy, Ivy, who had a developmental disability, did not perceive differences in status. Unburdened by societal pressure to compete and conform, she was content to live her life, loving the people and animals around her. Her life was simple and pure like a gold band, happy and rich in meaning as well.
There are things we inherit like fat fingers and big earlobes, and then there are stories that get passed down, like the wisdom of thrift our grandmother learned through Depression-era struggle, and the joy of living among the people and animals you love that Ivy understood innately.
A wedding band is more than a ring, and, sometimes, a wedding band is about more than a marriage.
My grandmother was a stylish woman.