In 1970, I worked at a record store/head shop called Auditory Odyssey, which I thought was a pretty cool name for the record part of the business. I remember LPs sold for $2.98 when I started. About a year later, they crept up to $3.75 or more.
I was in college then and in love. I’m still in love and still in college. At least I was until summer vacation started this week and my volunteering at the writing lab of Pierce College went on hiatus for a couple months. I’m still in love, though.
Another thing remains constant after all these years…the ring on my finger.
It’s a ring of betrothal given to me by Nettie forty-five years ago! Damn, the decades pile up, don’t they?
I say “betrothal” because we never planned on marrying, neither did we have a wedding. We simply went to Malibu Court House, took an oath with a borrowed ring, signed the papers and drove away…but that’s another story for another time.
The story I’ve been thinking about today is how this ring got on my finger to begin with.
The ring is a lapis lazuli stone in a Navajo tooled setting. It has naturally occurring pewter in the center of the stone, which was a rather trippy sight under the fluorescents of Auditory Odyssey.
The jewelry display case was small, just a few racks in a carousel glass cabinet. Ed, the owner of the shop and a rather arrogant dude with sharp edges to him, did all the buying of rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. He had a penchant for Indian craftwork…Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo.
I came in on my shift one day and a large lapis ring drew me to itself. Honestly, I walked in the store, verified the cash in drawer with the other employee leaving, and was pulled as if by magic to the display case.
There is was. A big bright beautiful blue ring in a bold sterling silver setting.
It was obviously a new purchase Ed had made since I’d never seen it before, but, as I say, Ed was a tough nut who never shared his business dealings with us lowly employees.
I didn’t wear rings, had never worn them nor watches either. (Or earrings, incidentally.) And yet I instantly wanted to put this ring on my finger.
I got my key and opened the display case. I slid the ring onto my “wedding” finger. It was a perfect fit of course. Perfect…until I looked at the price tag…$34. Wow…that was not in my budget. $10 maybe. $15 at a push, but not $34. Hell, the rent on the guest house Nettie and I lived in was $60 a month. We were students after all, on loans and scholarships, and food stamps in fact.
A $34 ring? No way I could justify half the rent money on a shiny blue ring.
But I wanted it. I thought about stealing it. Just for a second of course, but the thought crossed my mind.
I brooded, I plotted. I told Annette about it. She agreed that it was not in our budget, and besides we weren’t really married in our mind, so why confirm it with a wedding ring, even a far-out, non-traditional ring like the Navajo Lapis?
So, I took the high road and stopped bringing it up, stopped fixating on it, though I did check the supply case everyday to see if someone else bought it. A couple of times I had to show the ring to customers who were also attracted to it.
“It’s kind of big,” I’d say, “probably too heavy to be comfortable…”
They’d put it on their finger, nod their agreement with me, and put it back. Whew! Still there at the end of the shift.
Then disaster struck.
I came in on a Friday for my shift, walked over to the case, and the ring was gone! I was stabbed in my heart. I spun the shelves around and around to see if it had been misplaced. Nope. No ring.
I went into the back of the store, knocked on Ed’s closed door (something you didn’t do lightly) and asked if he knew what happened to the ring.
“A couple of days ago. A guy on a Harley came in, went right to it. Bought it.”
“Oh, good,” I said, “least it wasn’t stolen or something,” and I walked back to the front of the store and broke down crying.
Not really, but I felt like crying.
Days went by, then a week, a month. I’d like to say I stopped thinking about the Lapis ring but I didn’t. I let it haunt me. I let it be the silly $34 mistake I would regret forever. It was a unique, Navajo hand made ring that had drawn me to it at once, and I had foolishly let it slip (almost literally) though my fingers.
More time went by and the pain of the missed ring began to diminish. I wasn’t a lunatic after all. I mean, what did I want a ring for anyway I asked myself? I don’t wear rings. Never have. Nor watches. Who wants to keep uptight time in a conservative world when I’m a free spirit? Who wants their soul mired in material things? Foolish. A Lapis Lazuli ring? I couldn’t even remember what it looked like.
When my birthday came, I opened the big box from Nettie. I figured it was a new robe or pajamas, even a winter sweater. My birthday is in December after all. Instead, it was a box of newspaper balls and old magazines.
I looked up at Nettie and her smile made my skin tingle, my eyes blurry, which made it hard to find the small, delicately wrapped box with a tiny tag attached… “I do,” was written on it.
I shook it. It rattled. It was a ring surely. What kind of ring? Had she found another Navajo ring for me? Would I pretend it was just as good as the ring that still burned in my heart?
I was hesitant to open it. I didn’t want to disappoint her. I slowly took off the ribbon. Then the tape from the sides.
I lifted the lid…
The Lapis Lazuli ring stared back at me!
How could it be? Was it the ring…my ring or an imitation?
I tried it on. It fit perfectly. I shook my head slowly looking into Annette’s eyes.
“I put it on lay-away,” she giggled, “$5 a week for six weeks…”
“Ed? Ed played along with you?” She nodded.
I pulled her into my arms, held her there next to my heart, where she has remained for forty-five years…just as the ring has remained on my finger.
When I went next to Auditory Odyssey, I held my hand out to Ed with the ring dazzling in the store light. He nodded slowly, nearly forming a smile but not quite, “Don’t lose it,” he said.
“I won’t,” I nodded back and considered his advice downright chummy.
Not long after that, Nettie went to Europe with a friend and was gone for four months (another story for another time). When she got back, she handed me a small box. I opened it. Inside was a watch.
“Time to get real and start a family,” she laughed.
I put the watch on and we started looking for a house the very next day. Less than a year later, we had a home and a baby boy, Miles; and a couple years later would come another son, Graham, who was actually born at home in our bedroom. But that’s another story for another time.
Lapis Lazuli – Augments strength, vitality, virility, mental clarity, illumination. Enhances psychic abilities and communication with higher self and spirit guides. Lapis Lazuli is a “stone of total awareness,” helping to expand awareness and intellectual capacity, and allowing for conscious attunement to the intuitive and psychic aspects of ones nature. “The stone of royalty.”
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