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Connections | Globe Magazine

Marry me? Again and again and again.

A small ritual for each time we reunite, even from just an afternoon away.

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From the kitchen, I hear the familiar sounds of my husband hauling in his boating gear after a day on the river: the thump of wooden oars, the whoosh of canvas sail bags. Finally, all equipment stowed, he enters the kitchen and stands before me, left hand extended.

“Marry me?” he asks.

From a pot on the windowsill containing a cactus, I retrieve his wedding ring, slip it onto his finger, then stand tiptoe to kiss him.

We’ve been married for 19 years, and while I seldom remove my ring, my husband stashes his in that cactus whenever he’s out rowing or sailing. Each time he returns, sunburned and happy, we perform this little ritual. It’s one I couldn’t have predicted, considering he never planned on wearing a wedding ring.

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“I’m not against them,” he told me soon after we decided to marry. “I just never thought about it. My dad didn’t wear one, and you didn’t want an engagement ring, so I figured . . . ” His voice trailed off at my look of dismay.

It was true that a diamond never figured in my dreams of love and commitment. Maybe because I was a child of divorce, uncertain about marriage to begin with; or because my mother impressed upon me the value of saving money for more important things, like the down payment on a house.

A wedding ring, though. That was different. The plain gold band I envisioned wasn’t flashy, like a gemstone. And it wasn’t solely for me, but one of a pair. Besides, gold rings featured in the fantasies and Arthurian legends I’d always loved, talismans of magic and power and luck. I would need all that, I figured, if I pledged to spend the rest of my life with someone. But I didn’t want to be the only one in my marriage wearing a ring.

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I didn’t worry for long. From the beginning, my boyfriend and I had shared what mattered most to us: his passion for the ocean and its creatures; mine for the books I loved, developing an affinity that gradually deepened to tenderness. I knew he would understand. “It’s important to you, so I’m happy to wear one,” he said when I explained.

For a guy who’d never thought about a wedding ring, my boyfriend embarked on the search for ours with surprising enthusiasm, nixing popular models (“too trendy”), white gold (“not gold enough”) and raised designs (“flashy”). Finally, we found them: reddish gold, plain but for a tiny band of carving etched on each side — just enough to add a subtle sparkle.

I was a high school teacher then, and my boyfriend was a graduate student. At $600 for the pair, the rings were our most expensive purchase together so far. Back in our shabby apartment, we hid them in a bookshelf, behind a row of marine biology texts. But every week or so, during the six months before our wedding, one of us would reach behind Intertidal Invertebrates of California and retrieve the red leather box where our rings shone on their bed of black velvet.

“Let’s get married,” my boyfriend or I would say. In our living room, with its sagging couch and worn brown carpet, smiling self-consciously, we recited the vows we planned to make to each other, then exchanged rings.

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Golden and foreign on our fingers, the rings were emissaries from a territory of adulthood we regarded with anticipation not unmixed with wariness. Our own families had fractured long ago, each along its particular fault line. Perhaps it was foolish to suppose we could withstand the tremors sure to come our way.

Somehow, though, we have withstood them. Not for any single reason I could name, and certainly not because those rings held any power or magic or luck. But for all these years, my husband has kept asking me to marry him, and I have kept saying yes.

Kate Haas is a writer in Portland, Oregon. Send comments to connections@globe.com.


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