Two month’s salary. An average of $3500 to $4000. Enough to make your back teeth squeak. Those are just three of the estimates I found on-line when I Googled “How much should you spend on an engagement ring?” Okay, the last one about the teeth is my own, but it still applies. I mention these facts and figures because I want it on the record that I did not do that when my wonderful wife, Jessica, and I got engaged, around Valentine’s Day, way back in the last millennium.
I went to a jeweler called Condon’s in Madison, Wisconsin, and chose something I could afford to pay for all at once. I don’t know why I chose Condon’s. There was another store in town called Goodman’s that had much better commercials that featured the Goodman brothers, Bob and Irwin. Irwin gave you the facts and Bob provided the warmth. He even sang a little bit in the ads. Maybe I was fearful that, if I went to Goodman’s and saw the brothers, I’d be starstruck and lose control of my wallet.
I’ve noticed that many women have huge diamonds on their fingers. They look like they could support a performance of Glee On Ice. The original joke is “That diamond’s so big you could skate on it.” Or, “That diamond’s so big…when do the Ice Capades start?” I substituted Glee On Ice, in a desperate attempt to appear hip and “in the know.” The point is, I see giant jewels and feel very much the failure in the “ring-on-her-finger” department.
Let me make this clear: I notice. Jessica does not! Whenever I would mention this, she would laugh it off and say “I’ve got the exact ring I want.” If I whine often enough about it, she says “I’ve got the exact ring I want. The husband? Not so sure.” I always wondered if she was just being kind then it happened: The diamond fell out!
It was an October day, when she accidentally scratched herself, looked down and discovered the diamond was gone as were two of the four prongs holding it in place. She was distressed. It could have been anywhere. Down the drain! In the car! On the sidewalk! In the treadmill gadget at the gym! In Branson! Maybe Shoji Tabuchi found it and glued it to his fiddle! It was gone. Period.
I told her not to worry…we’d get it replaced….maybe with a bigger, flashier ring. Something with the clarity of spring water! Cut? How about something in the Prime Rib department! The color will make rainbows weep. And, if we’re talking carats…not a 1/4 or 1/2 or one or two. How about a garden full of carats? Of course, I can’t afford this but it never stopped me before.
This raises an interesting bit of economic rationalization I fall victim to quite often. If I over-spend but it is not for myself, how can that be wrong? A ring for Jessica. Trip to Disney World for the kids. Gourmet chew treats for the dogs. It’s not like I’m spending it on me! Well, in my more reasonable moments, I realize that all those purchases may say more about me and my selfish confusion between “want” and “need,” than about them. Frankly, they never ask for this stuff. Well, one of the dogs does, but he’s a bit of a dilettante. I know you’re also wondering “You mention ‘reasonable moments.’ When do those actually occur, for you?” Usually, when I’m walking that same upper-crust dog. He’s a good listener despite his snobbery.
Along the aforementioned lines, Jessica told me she did not want a bigger diamond. She wasn’t all that enthusiastic about any replacement because it would be just that, a replacement. That was the end of the conversation. After that, we didn’t talk about it much. Until Christmas Eve day.
Jessica asked our daughter, Samantha, to do a little vacuuming in the living room before we went to church. Samantha grabbed the upright and bounced it out of the laundry room and into the living room. She bounced it. Bounced! That’s when Jessica spotted it. A little something trying to glisten in the dust. She walked over and picked it up. Could it be? Her little diamond? She scratched a milk bottle with it. After two months, there it was. Now, you may ask “If it was lodged in your vacuum for two months, does that mean you really should be vacuuming more often?” Actually, we had used that vacuum many times. We have four kids and two dogs. But, I think it was Samantha’s bouncing of the machine that made the difference.
Well, I put the “little diamond that could,” with the empty setting, in a matchbox. I took it to the jeweler to be repaired as a birthday surprise for Jessica. Of course, the friendly fellow at the store said “We could take this opportunity to upgrade, you know?” I passed.
A few days later, Jessica and I went to pick it up. Repaired, cleaned, shined and ready to wear. Yet another salesperson mentioned “Trading up.”
Jessica said “No, thanks. I’ve got the exact ring I want.”
Around our house, we often listen to a great singer-songwriter named Jesse Winchester. He’s got a song called Bless Your Foolish Heart that sums up quite well how lucky I am to have my particular everyday Valentine: