Wedding rings

Photo by Sandy Millar

Recently I had reason to contemplate the meaning of wedding rings. For many centuries the ring has become a symbol of a lifelong commitment made between married couples. The ring, or circle, is the most perfect shape there is. When measured from its centre point, it is the same distance all the way around its circumference.

Circles are all around us and over the generations have become embedded into our psyche. Think of the many stone circles that have been found all around the world. Nature also produces circles such as hurricanes, tornadoes, stars, planets and those pesky fairy rings in our lawns. No wonder we are obsessed with rings and no wonder that the ring eventually became a meaningful symbol that we placed on our fingers.

When I looked up its history, I learned that the first record of a ring being used in wedding ceremonies goes back six thousand years to the ancient Egyptians. These were lovingly woven from reeds, hemp or leather to be used in the ceremony.

One set of wedding rings which meant a great deal to me was the set worn by my parents. My mother and father were born in Hungary in the early 1900s and grew up in humble surroundings. One of my grandfathers was a policeman and the other a tram conductor in Budapest and neither of their salaries afforded any luxuries for their families. My father decided early in his life to become a minister of the church and began to work, almost obsessively, towards that goal. He did so well that he received a one-year scholarship to the Huguenot Seminary in Montpellier, France.

On his return home, he became an apprentice pastor in a small church where he met my mother. During the next few months, they grew very close and formed an unshakable bond that lasted all their lives.

Back then, the custom of engagement rings did not exist, and even if it had, the cost of such an ornament would have been prohibitive. So, when they married in 1936, they exchanged golden wedding bands which they wore for the rest of their lives.

After the war, circumstances underneath the Communist regime became dangerous for my father and the fearful decision was made to escape our homeland. It turned out to be the right decision as we made it to safety and certainly a better way of life. Our travels over the next few years took us almost completely around the world. From Europe to Australia and then Australia to Canada. While my sister and I stayed here, my parents decided to make one last move to the U.S. where they eventually passed away.

After my father’s death, my sister came into possession of his wedding band which she treasured until she passed it on to her daughter as a keepsake. Passing the ring on to my niece was the best thing she could have done because Michelle has always shown an interest in her heritage. She would spend hours asking both her mother and myself about our lives which she then shared with her two boys. She was doing just that when during their conversation, she showed her youngest son the old wedding ring. It so happens that Joshua is about to be married himself and so he tried on his great-grandfather’s ring and wonder of wonders, it fit perfectly. He then wondered if it would be OK if he used it as his wedding ring and so they asked me if I would have any objections to this.

I had absolutely no objections I was overcome with emotions. Tears filled my eyes and I had trouble focusing on the e-mail. I read it several times before the meaning of it sunk in. How wonderful to think that my father will be represented in such a meaningful way at his great-grandson’s wedding ceremony and throughout his married life.

Mostly young people are absorbed in their own lives and don’t think or wonder about their history. That is how it was with me when I was young. What was ahead was always more exciting than what was behind. Now it is the opposite as what is behind is a lot more than what is left in front of me. My parents told me many things about our past and I am glad that I listened and remembered the stories well enough to eventually write them into a book. Our lives, as most lives, were filled with trials and tribulations. There was so much joy and laughter, some unhappiness, great achievements and even some sorrow. 

I hope that sometime in the future, my grand-nephew and his bride will be able to tell their children and grandchildren about the ring, my parents and our past. I also hope that that little ring will still be around all those years in the future, and be ready for another groom to wear and enjoy.