97 Years of Marriage in Two Rings

97 Years of Marriage in Two Rings

We had five days to get married. I found out I was pregnant on Monday. He was scheduled to leave for boot camp on Friday, responding to a January 1 draft notice.

He looked up the legal requirements for marriage in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, from his apartment in Arlington, Virginia. I had just come up from my parents’ house in Georgia for a planned second semester at George Washington University to be near him. I moved my trip up after he got the draft notice, also suspecting by then that I might be pregnant.

One local jurisdiction required written parental consent because I was 20, below their legal age limit of 21. In the days before faxes, email, and cell phones, there was not enough time to mail such a form.

One jurisdiction required a blood test to determine if either of us had syphilis. Test results took longer than we had.

Maryland would give us a marriage license and let us marry at the courthouse or a church of our choice. We started making plans to marry in a nearby Unitarian church, my spiritual home for four years and not far from his Methodist roots.

This left flowers, champagne, dinner, a place to stay after the ceremony, and rings.

We drove from one place to another all day Tuesday, collecting our wedding tokens. The rings were the last thing we bought. Jewelers we visited, correctly sensing urgency and blind, young love, steered us toward their diamond ring displays. When I told them I wanted a simple gold band, my idea of a proper wedding ring, they lost interest quickly.

Then, we walked into Shaw & Dussinger at 1413 Eye Street, Northwest, Washington, DC.  I know now that they were in business for 47 years. In 1968, they had been open less than a year. More importantly, they understood my sense of value and tradition. I did not want a diamond. I did not want a ring that outshone the marriage it represented.

The kind jeweler showed us beautiful, gleaming gold bands, Some were engraved with designs and that is what I finally picked. We did not have time to have it sized, but he installed a spring that kept it snugly on my finger until the ocean captured it eight years later, to be replaced by a similarly engraved band.

On Wednesday, January 24, 1968, we married at four in the afternoon, at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Maryland. There were no witnesses, just us and the minister. We holed up in a nearby hotel for two days, where we had lobster and champagne for our wedding dinner.

Friday morning, we drove to Baltimore and I watched my new husband leave for boot camp.

When my mother died in 2003, I took her diamond band, a symbol of my parents’ fifty years of marriage.

Today, the two rings I wear represent 97 years of marriage.

Happy 47th anniversary.