I never wanted a class ring.
My mother wanted me to have one when I graduated from high school and I said no. In my senior year of high school I was focused on getting ready for college. I felt that a high school ring wouldn’t mean much to the girls, excuse me, women, I was going to meet at college in the great state of Texas. And, I didn’t want to worry about losing it. Spending that kind of money for something that I would probably lose just didn’t seem worth it. We were a modest family; money was not scarce, nor was it abundant. But I was taught that money was to buy things that were important and necessary, not luxury items or fluff.
As I approached college graduation my mother asked again and I said no. I really didnt want a ring. I don’t wear jewelry. But mom was so proud of her only child graduating college, she simply had to get me a ring. It sealed the deal for her in a tangible way. She insisted and I capitulated. She even offered to pay for it. So, due to the price of gold in 1988, I got a pinkie ring instead of a big traditional ring. [editor’s note: gold back then was about $400/oz, gas was about $1.05] I tricked it up by having a saxophone engraved on the stone to show off my pride for our world class jazz program. The ring cost more than $500, and mom was quite proud to write the check for it. Mission accomplished. Mom was happy, what else could you ask for?
Fast forward to about two years later. I wore the ring to an all-day judging session for the annual high school All-State auditions. This is the last time I remember having it. It was gone. I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I was crushed.
I grew to like my unique ring. I grew to appreciate the hard work and accomplishment that it symbolized. I grew to appreciate my mother’s stubborn dedication to her hard headed son. And I lost the damned ring.
Of course, there’s no way I was going to tell mom about this. Or dad. He would have had a shit fit if he learned that I lost a $500 ring that he probably protested the purchase of to begin with. I visited every pawn shop near the area I last remembered having the ring. They were a real help. One guy even said that he usually melts down class rings since they don’t sell well. I visited the school where I adjudicated the All-State auditions to see if anyone turned it in. Nothing.
So, in the spring of 1991 I began living a tiny but occasionally inconvenient lie. I’d claim that I forgot to pack the ring those few times I flew home for visits. I’d smoothly change the subject if class ring talk came up. It became second nature. Eventually I actually forgot about the ring. Life was maintaining an ironclad grip on my attention. I was now working for a major consulting firm, then I was engaged, then married in 1993. Then I was in grad school. Then thanks to some luck and good timing we bought our first home. We found a wonderful starter home with a great view in a nice neighborhood, and the initial buyer’s financing fell through so we grabbed it. My life seemed to be going in the right direction.
Fast forward to 1998. I received a call at work from my dad. He asked me, “did you lose your class ring?” What? How did he know? Remember, my parents had no idea that the ring had been missing for seven years. I said yes and he then told me that a woman named Nicole called claiming that she had my ring. He gave me her number and I of course called her right away. I asked her to describe the ring and right away I knew she had my ring. I then asked for directions to where she was and Nicole gave me her address. I had to wait a few more hours before I could leave work and make the 30 mile drive to the gym where she worked.
Before I left the office I called the gym to verify the location. This time I man answered and when I asked for Nicole he said “nobody named Nicole works here.” What? My mind started racing: Is this some sort of sick joke? What do you mean you don’t know who she is?
So, not knowing if my ring was really there I headed out at peak rush hour to drive from north Plano to south Arlington. NOT a fun drive at any time, never mind rush hour. I found the gym, walked up to the receptionist and asked for Nicole. The woman behind the counter said “We don’t have a Nicole here.” Aaaaargh!!! This is insane! I explained my situation and asked for the manager. He came out and said “Oh, Nicole. Yeah, she’s new here and works in the day care down the hall.” Apparently the front desk staff didn’t know the name of the new part-time daycare worker.
I walked down to the kid area and called Nicole over. She came over and I introduced myself. She went into her purse and puled out my ring. Holy crap… there it was! It was dirty, but it was my ring. I asked where she found it and she said that her brother Jason found it a few years ago but she didn’t know any more details. She was able to track me down because my name was inscribed inside the ring, and my last name is somewhat unique in Texas. They called information and got my dad on the first try.
Now the story gets interesting.
It turns out that in 1991 when we moved out of our rental house on Oakwood Lane in Denton to move closer to Dallas, Jason is the guy that moved in. He had recently moved to Texas from Connecticut which, coincidentally, is where I am from. All Nicole could tell me is that he found the ring while living there. He was now living with Nicole in an apartment. I asked for their address so I could send them a reward for their honesty. She gave it to me, I profusely thanked her again and then headed home. That night I wrote a letter to these fine people thanking them for their honesty and for making the effort to find me. I never met or spoke to Jason during this entire affair.
Now for a seemingly unrelated tangent.
On the corner of the street near our house near a light post there was a puzzling inscription in one of the sidewalk squares. It said “JD 95.” Our neighborhood was small, we lived on a small block and all of the neighbors knew each other. Nobody on our block had the initials JD, and since we were all the first owners of our homes in this new neighborhood we knew that it wasn’t a previous resident. We wrote it off as graffiti from a passing teen that found some moist cement when the streets were being paved.
Now back to our story.
My neighbor Dirk was the resident social coordinator. He would host block parties across the street from our house during most major holidays and whenever else the mood hit him. One warm April weekend we were gathering in his driveway enjoying a cool beverage when we saw a beat up compact car zip into the neighborhood and turn quickly into my driveway. “That’s weird,” I thought. I had never seen that car before, what is this guy doing in my driveway? I thought it might be a lost pizza delivery guy. When I saw the driver get out of the car and head for my front door I walked across the street to see what he wanted.
He said, “Are you Paul?” I said yes and he said, “walk with me for a second.” I start thinking, this is weird, but if I’m gonna get capped by a mobster or something at least I”e got a driveway full of friends that can help me out if needed. It turns out that this person was Jason, the guy that found my ring. He said that he found the ring one day when he was looking out of the bedroom window into the backyard. He looked down and caught a brief glimpse of something shiny. He went outside to see what it was, and buried in the dirt was my ring. (apparently the ring must have fallen off of my hand when I was mowing the lawn or something.) As I was thanking him for his efforts he walked me to the street corner and pointed at the inscription in the sidewalk. “See those initials? They are mine. I wrote that two years ago.”
Wait. It gets better.
Jason then tells me that he was the original buyer of the house that we owned. He is the person who’s financing fell through thus enabling us to buy our first home. He lived in our former residence, and he tried to buy the house that we ended up buying. This is really weird.
It gets even better. Jason then pulled out my thank you letter and told me an interesting story.
The reason Jason left Connecticut was to get away from a horrible life of substance abuse. He was an alcoholic and a coke addict. He hung around with a bad crowd and it nearly killed him. He would steal from friends and family to support his habit. He decided to escape to Texas, a place very far away and very different from Connecticut. And he quit drugs cold turkey. Not long after he moved into the house on Oakwood he found my ring. As Jason tells it, he could have sold the ring for cash and bought some drugs. But he resisted the urge; he kept the ring. He kept it for several years and got clean. Eventually he decided to find the ring’s owner and was successful.
Pretty cool story, huh? There’s still more. My favorite part.
Jason keeps my hand written thank you letter in his pocket all of the time. He uses it as proof that he beat his addiction. He told me that he went back to Connecticut once to take care of some personal business and he saw some old “friends.” When he told them the ring story and how he quit, they called bull on him. He then pulled out my letter to prove it. He won his battle and my letter was proof positive. Jason told me that this was a pivotal moment of closure in his life. He showed his cohorts that he was better than his former self. He then left Connecticut again and continued his new life.
And to think that I never wanted a class ring. I got the ring, but Jason got so much more.
[note: I originally wrote this 8-30-2007]