We were sweethearts in high school, Studly and I. We’d begun dating in September of my senior year, just a few months after I’d moved to Dumas, Texas. Apparently Studly had followed me around all summer, but I was pretty clueless. I wasn’t the kind of girl boys like him pursued. I was more the type they avoided.
Studly worked for my dad who managed the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Not long after I asked him where the ketchup was shelved, we began dating and fell head over heels in love. We were inseparable for my entire senior year, and when I moved to Amarillo in the fall of ’75 to attend college the angst of separation drove us both a little crazy. You see, Studly is a year younger than I am, and still had his senior year of high school to get through
I came home to Dumas fairly often, and Studly drove to Amarillo every chance he got. Dumas and Amarillo are only about 45 miles apart, after all, still, it might as well have been a trillion miles, so in love were we.
When Christmas break rolled around I couldn’t wait to spend some quality time with Studly. We went out every night and fell deeper and deeper in love. On Christmas Eve Studly and I went parking in our favorite spot at the old motorcycle track, and when he presented me with a small velvet box my heart started pounding so hard I thought I’d pass out.
I knew it wasn’t an engagement ring. We weren’t at that point in our relationship yet, but I thought it might just be a promise ring, a symbol of our intention to someday be engaged.
Anyway, I opened the box and found myself looking at the ugliest, cheapest piece of jewelry I’d ever seen. See the green one below? That’s the one.
It had the look of a prize from a gum ball machine, but Studly looked so earnest when I opened it that I had to gush over it.
“Put it on!” He urged.
So I did. Luckily it had an adjustable band. Could he not tell that it was obviously an extremely cheap piece of jewelry? I thanked him for the ring, trying to be upbeat, but all the time wondering if he’d bought it from some scam artist.
We made out for awhile, before he suggested that we go to the Pizza Hut for dinner.
“You can show off your ring!” He said, as I cringed.
When we got to the Pizza Hut, it was hopping. There were no empty booths to be had. I was relieved. Maybe I wouldn’t need to show my dubious promise ring to anyone after all. Then a couple we knew waved us over and asked us to sit with them. Crap.
Almost immediately after we joined them the girl, Karen, exclaimed, “Guess what? We’re engaged!” She then showed me her lovely engagement ring.
Studly and I both admired it. Her ring was small, but so pretty. Studly gently took my hand, and said,
“Honey, aren’t you going to show them your ring?”
I wanted to hide under the table. I knew Karen and her guy would see the ring for what it was–a cheap piece of plastic in an adjustable band.
Just as I was about to bring my trembling hand up to show them the ring, Studly stopped me. “Maybe you’d rather show them this one.”
Out of his pocket he pulled a small blue velvet box. When I opened it I began laughing.
I didn’t know whether to hit him or kiss him. I showed Karen and her guy the first ring Studly had given me. We all had a good laugh when I told them the story.
I don’t know what happened to that gum ball ring. Studly said he’d spent a lot of money trying to win a ring from the gum ball machine. It might’ve well cost as much as my little sapphire by the time he finally got it. I wish I’d kept the cheap one. I had no appreciation for such things back then, but I do now.
There’s a lesson there, I suppose. Pay attention to the little things. Someday, they’ll be really important.
Happy New Year, friends.