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Tag Archives: ring

and yet another postcard…

Oberndorfer-Aarons card

Oberndorfer-Aarons card backI know so little of my grandfather (seated at right, with his sister’s husband). I think my mother liked him, but she didn’t talk about him much except to say he was the youngest of ten children, always a joker, ready with a prank, and he died young.

In his six-page handwritten letter to his future in-laws asking for my grandmother’s hand, he wrote, “…promise you now & forever that you will not find me lacking in any detail of true manliness, & devotion for your dear and my dear.”

His gold wedding band, on my middle finger, is engraved inside, January 15, ’07. My mother wore it; she had it on when she died.

Here, at age 27, his life more than half over, bowlered and cigared and finely dressed in the voluminous fashion of 1910, he looks like he can barely contain the impulse to jump up and be silly.

in sepia memory
color of your eyes
timbre of your voice
chromosomal gift



ringI was in college, home for a visit, and had gone to the beach. Along the shore there, in Santa Monica, the beach is miles long and perhaps 100 yards wide. Vast. The sand is deep and pale and fine, and, in summer, very, very hot.

I glanced down and there, just a few inches in front of my foot, half buried in the sand, was a silver ring. I picked it up. It was delicate and small, with a faint pattern etched into its surface. Without much thought, I sat down on the hot, dry sand, the waves shushing and crashing, shushing and crashing, and slipped the ring onto the second toe of my right foot. There it stayed, eventually creating a small callous at the base of the toe.

That was a long time ago, before people wore rings on every part of their bodies. Finger rings, yes, and sometimes a lot of them, but mostly people left their belly buttons and eyebrows and lips and tongues alone, and a ring in your nose meant that you were a native of some exotic culture from the pages of National Geographic, or a bull.

I did have one friend who wore a ring in her nose — a little gold hoop in her left nostril. It was shocking then, and terribly exotic. The ring was strung with a small red glass bead. Truly, it was a beautiful color and would catch the light, but always, always, no matter how often I saw her or how much time we spent together, my eyes were drawn to the bead and in a flash of panic, I’d think: blood.

I wondered about the little silver ring. Who had it belonged to before I found it? How much sand had sifted through its circle? What had caused it to fall off its original owner? I pictured a very young bride, with tiny fingers, or a teenager, not that much younger than myself, whose fingers were encrusted with rings. Perhaps a young man had entrusted the ring to the pocket of his swimming shorts, planning to give it to his girlfriend — a proposal, a promise — only to lose it, and perhaps her too.

I wore the ring on my toe for ten years. But eventually it had to go. I was working in an office and wearing grown-up shoes and and the ring would rub a little snag in the foot of my pantyhose that would turn into a run, right up the front of my leg. After a few more years the callous went away too.

I still have the ring. Sometimes, holding it in my hand, I’m whisked back to that day at the beach, and there it is again: tiny, circular, a wink of silver in the endless expanse of silvery sand.


His father wore a heavy gold college ring with a round red stone—a garnet?—on the pinky of his left hand, but no wedding ring and, god forbid, no other jewelry.

Once Howard’s aunt had given his father a very substantial gold chain. This must have been in the 70s, when real men wore gold chains. But his father was aghast, truly dismayed at the prospect of having to wear a necklace for even a moment. How had he and his sister managed to live well into middle age, his father had wondered aloud, and be such strangers? How could she imagine that he, her plain and undecorated bowtie-wearing brother, might suddenly embrace gold chains?

But when his aunt visited, his father would dutifully take the thing from the small top drawer in his bureau and put it around his neck as carefully, and with as much distaste, as if it were a live snake.

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