Stuck in the '70s

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Importance of Class Rings

I made a phone call the other night to the boys' father. I asked him to split the cost of our 16-year-old son's class ring. Vincent's a junior this year and has asked to purchase a class ring. I told him he could have one on two conditions -- that he doesn't give it to some girl; and that he doesn't up and lose it. Knowing I'm the proverbial struggling single mom, he said he'd settle for the cheapo $59 job. I didn't even want to look at that one in the catalog (but when I did, it looked like a lousy garage sale wedding ring). His dad is still discussing it with the stepmother. Doesn't matter. Vincent's getting a nice class ring. His dad told him that it wasn't really necessary to get a class ring. Pardon me, but I disagree 100 percent.

Getting my class ring meant everything to me. (See my diary entries in September 1978 when I got the kit from Josten's to order the ring; and again in November 1978 when I actually received my $68 ring.) I was a sophomore at the time. That was a big fat hairy deal. I ordered a girl's version of my big brother Bob's, even using his birthstone, the ruby. I thought I was ordering stuff to go on the side of it like Bob had, but apparently, with the chick version, the band was too thin for that. Regardless, I loved and still love my high school ring. I took pride in having no school pride, but I wanted that damn ring. Then, later, in college, I was sure to order my college ring. I still wear them with pride. Both of them, one over 20 years old, and the other over 25 years old, still have way more meaning than all of my wedding rings. (boy, that sounds bad)

Bob allegedly gave his class ring to some chick. He mourned its loss for a long time, but it miraculously showed up in the dirt in the back yard at 1122 Brookview Lane when Claude the mutt uncovered it several years later. He was ecstatic to have it back!

My mom loved rings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, earrings and jewelry of all sorts. She loved to wear rings so much that, at times, she reminded me of a white, 2-eyed, female version of Sammy Davis Jr. She agreed back in the day that I MUST have my class rings, and I knew she admired and envied them because she had dropped out of high school when she was 16 and never got a class ring. She went on to beauty school but dropped out of that because she said students had to name every single nerve in the head and it was too overwhelming. She always wanted a class ring. She also always wanted her high school diploma and seriously regretted dropping out.

Finally in 1992, when Mom was 64, she decided she was going to get her high school diploma come hell or high water. She always excelled at English, writing and spelling and loved everything about history. But, similar to me, she hated math and didn't believe she was any good at it, let alone CARE about it. Still, she knew she had to master a high school level of math to pass a GED exam. Not only did she have to pass math, she had to pass 1992 math -- not the simple math she remembered from her school days.

Now, Dad is the one who always helped me make it through my math classes without failing. He helped me get a D in Algebra I my freshman year, instead of an F. I can still remember sitting on the green front room carpeting with Dad, Algebra books spread out in front of us, sobbing, while Dad tried to get it through my thick head why "X" equaled this or that when "A" was this and "B' was that. Who gave a crap? When would I ever use THAT? All math ever did for me was give me serious headaches.

So, when Mom became determined she would get her high school diploma, she asked Dad for his help with math. Dad was a design engineer for Caterpillar Tractor Company. At almost 77 years old, he still explains everything in mathematical or scientific terms. Mom attended some classes at the local high school to study for her GED; and she and Dad spread the math books all over the dining room table while he patiently tutored her.

As the testing date approached, Mom was, of course, apprehensive. Dad told me on the phone he was confident. He told me Mom had mastered the math, and in reality, she knew it all along because she was "one smart cookie" and had done all the family's bookkeeping.

Mom went to the local high school for the all-morning GED exam. When the results came in, she had passed with flying colors! Heck, she'd have been at the top of her class. She was invited to take part in the graduation exercises, and along with the invitation came information about ordering a class ring and her graduation gown and cap.

Mom wasn't going to let this opporunity go by without taking part in the pomp and circumstance she had missed out on almost 40 years earlier. She ordered the cap & gown and took great care in getting that all-important class ring, complete with her August birthstone.

Dad, the boys and I were so proud to attend Mom's graduation ceremony on May 13, 1993. She stood among her peers, all at least 40 years her junior. She couldn't wipe that smile off her face, and neither could we. Her gold class ring came in shortly thereafter, and she wore it proudly, rotating it with the rest of her jewelry.

The day before she died, Mom asked me to fetch her jewelry boxes, go through them with her and pick out what I wanted for myself, but I refused. I told her there'd be plenty of time for that.

Her class ring now sits in my bedroom, in one of her many jewelry boxes. I wear it now and then, rotating it with her Mother's Ring and the wedding and engagement rings the doctor took off her fingers for me at the hospital.

Yes, class rings are not only necessary, they're important and meaningful. They're something you've earned that you should remember forever. So, tonight, Vincent and I fill out the paperwork from Josten's. Tomorrow, he'll take my deposit check to school with the order form; and soon, he'll be the very proud bearer of one beautiful and meaningful piece of jewelry.