While on the phone, approaching the border of Michigan and Indiana the other day, I learned the possible difference between cheap and frugal.
It was suggested to me that frugality is interested in a good deal, in the best value for the product purchased. Frugality likes to own nice things, things that don’t break because they’re mass-produced or put together with soft plastic pieces, things made with durable fabric, things that will last and look beautiful. Things that will flatter. Things that have worth but are also on sale. Cheapness has interest only in the price tag. When the price tag is as low as possible, cheap wants in. If there is a chance ice might melt in the Arctic and the price could drop a few quarters, cheap would prefer to wait.
I would like to be frugal, I said. But I fear I fall into the trap of being cheap. I could dance around the semantics of the issue, but the truth is, I’m cheap. And I’d prefer not to be. This lesson in definitions flipped a switch for me. I have to tweak my price tag obsession some days.
On the tail end of this DNA malfunction inside of me is the idea of value. In our early conversations, I didn’t value wedding rings at all. Wasn’t interested; wouldn’t even window shop if it were up to me. But there are two of us in this conversation, and I was open to talking about it, exploring my aversion to what I perceived as an empty tradition. Open, yes; but remaining uninterested, true.
I researched a number of hours. Found unique designs, sought after the origin of the ring, the meaning behind the ring finger and the circular shape, browsed photos of thousands of precious metals, even wooden rings to get ideas. Visited discussion boards as an unassuming guest, extracting the opinions of strangers.
As I chewed on the idea of value months ago, I mentioned as an example, passing down fine jewelry from someone like my grandmother. My grandma and I were very close; she died about five years ago from breast cancer that she’d been battling my entire lifetime. I hadn’t seen grandma’s ring since I sat on her daybed, making mountains of her wrinkled skin, twisting her ring around her emaciated finger. The thought left my head after being said and I moved on to wooden rings, which were becoming my favorite. I was actually taking to the idea of rings. Everything I was learning was lodging in my heart, finding a way to actualize the tradition.
My husband-to-be must have known since the moment I mentioned it that he would seek Grandma’s ring. I’m ashamed, for such an intuitive person, at my ignorance. He’d called Mom, she’s contacted my aunt, they’d gone over to Grandpa’s to find the ring in an old jewelry box, where it had been sitting for years. Now I, naive and never wanting to wear a ring at all, am wearing my Grandmother’s wedding ring during my engagement. A ring she wore for over 50 years of marriage to my now-sick grandpa.
In that, there is value. In this ring there is history and storytelling. There are two little rubies and a single-cut diamond framing the main stone. There is an illusion setting, popular decades ago to make a smaller diamond look bigger than it actually is. The diamond was important to Grandma. Without Grandpa even knowing, she had her ring reset years into their marriage with the diamond from her mother’s wedding ring because that diamond was bigger! That story, told to me in a joint format by my mother and aunt, makes me laugh. That’s my Gram. She would.
All of this life is on my finger. It tells the world how Brad asked me to be his wife. And how in history there is value. Life is so much more than frugality. And symbols aren’t empty if you fill them.