Heart's Desire

Ronnie Cohen

I have always disdained diamonds.

I came of age in the 1970s wearing love beads. Diamonds symbolized wealth - wealth better spent feeding starving Biafran children. I could no more put a diamond on my hand than drive a Mercedes or wear a fur coat. Throughout my married life, I've worn just a plain gold wedding band on my never-manicured hands.

I bought myself the ring, the thinnest gold band I could find, two days before Gary and I married. We lived together for three years. Like Joni Mitchell, we didn't need no piece of paper from the City Hall.

Until I got pregnant. Then we hastily arranged our wedding party. On a Monday morning in June, we called all the guests - a rabbi, a photographer friend, her husband and two witnesses - just enough people to hold all four poles of the wedding canopy or chuppa.

The rabbi advised us to share our union with family and friends. But Gary and I wanted to marry quickly and in as private a way as possible. We had no time to organize a big wedding, and we felt shy about sharing such an intimate occasion with a crowd, to say nothing of our seemingly mismatched relatives.

The day before our wedding, I went to Nordstrom's. "You're getting married tomorrow?" an incredulous saleswoman asked. In an hour, she helped me choose an A-line off-white dress with black piping around the sleeves, a wide-brimmed black straw hat, and black patent-leather pumps. Gary wore an off-white jacket he'd bought while we vacationed in London two weeks before. He put the ring box in the pocket of his old blue trousers.

That Sunday, six days after we decided to marry, we stood under the chuppa.

"You may place the ring on her finger," the rabbi told Gary. Gary opened the black velvet box. No ring. Frantically, he searched his jacket and pants pockets. I giggled anxiously. Assuming it was a comic break, I remembered why I was marrying him. Finally, he produced the ring and put it on my finger.

I have worn it ever since.

Recently, the rabbi who married us died in a car accident. While grieving his loss, I remembered his advice: "Why not celebrate your love and your marriage with your family and friends?" I began to wish we'd had a longer engagement so we might have arranged a bigger wedding. I began to notice other women's rings. I began to covet diamonds. Instead of symbols of wealth, diamonds began to look like symbols of love and commitment.

I wrote off my diamond-desire as a passing phase.

But then I began to stare at women's hands, to study their solitaire diamonds, their rows of diamonds, their arrangements of diamonds. Did they buy the diamonds for themselves? Did they go with their fiancÚs to the jewelry store? Did their fiancÚs choose the rings and present them kneeling? I vacillated between craving diamonds and seeing them as "not me" - a 40-something graying nail-biter struggling to remain faithful to the anti-materialistic values I swore to uphold while keeping two children out of Toys 'R Us.

One night in bed, before slipping off to sleep, I whispered to Gary: "I think I might want a diamond ring."

The morning of our eighth anniversary, Gary brought me coffee in bed. I spilled it on the top of my white flannel pajamas. My short hair stuck up on one side like a bear emerging from hibernation. Our 3-year-old son, Cory, wedged his head under my right arm. Zoe, age 7, snuggled under my left. Gary sat next to us on the edge of the bed.

He so struggles with choosing presents that he often gives them late, but this time he boasted that he had bought me a gift a week early. Lingerie, I figured, judging from his glee. Trying to suppress a smile, he handed me an unwrapped gray velvet ring box.

As I flipped up the box, my eyes popped open like Olive Oyl's. I looked at Gary, feeling as though I was 16 and he'd just kissed me for the first time. He was flushed. Then I slipped on the ring - a gold ring with a band as thin as my wedding band and seven tiny gold diamonds sparkling in a row. Simple and beautiful, it says everything I wanted and nothing more than "I love you."

© Ronnie Cohen

Ronnie Cohen is a Northern California writer.

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