Mennonite Flashback III: Rabbits and Rings

This is a sequel to a previous blog post: Flying the Coop: Leaving Mennonite Land with a link to my original story on Mary Gottschalk’s website.

His Story:

I proposed to Marian my Mennonite girl friend one snowy evening, my car stuck in a snow-bank. When she accepted my proposal, I also asked her, “Would you be willing to wear a ring?” This is the plain girl I have fallen in love with: no make-up, no jewelry, especially no ring on her finger, ever.

Now it’s close to Easter and Marian is flying down from Charlotte to spend the weekend with me in Jacksonville. Technically, she’ll be with me most of the time though she will spend the night at Mom and Pop Rea’s house, members of Fellowship Bible Church where I am youth pastor. No sleeping together before marriage.

I’ve been wracking my brain to find a way to make the ring presentation unforgettable—and a surprise too. So this is what I’ll do. I’ll make a ham dinner for her finishing it off with dessert, a cake with her engagement ring baked inside. No, wait! A cake is too big; the ring may get lost in it. I’d better make cupcakes or muffins. That’s it. A blueberry muffin. She’ll find that ring for sure if I wrap it four or five times with tin foil.

And I’ll make some rabbit cutouts with toothpicks, blue for me and red for her, so I know which muffin the ring has been baked in.

Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967
Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967

Her Story:

Charlotte is my home this year, but with every stitch of my wedding gown, I dream of my life with soon-to-be-husband Cliff in Florida. Easter weekend I take an Eastern Airlines flight to Jacksonville. The carefree, goofy guy I have fallen in love with has hit real life, teaching sixth-graders in an inner city school. He has also exchanged a college dorm for a $ 50.00 per month, second-story garage apartment with a turquoise-teal kitchen, where I will live after our honeymoon. But his humble abode has not killed romance and his wish to entertain.

We sit down to a home-made ham dinner.

The Discovery:

Dessert is served. Oh, little bunny muffins, I think. How cute even if they’re from a mix. I take 2-3 bites and my teeth strike something hard and metallic. Uh-oh. I don’t want to embarrass Cliff by exposing his lack of baking expertise, so I try to hide the wad of foil under my plate. Eying what I think is a faux pas, he urges, “Why don’t you see what’s inside?” Cautious but obliging, I unwrap the layers and layers of foil, and my eyes pop with pleasure – a glittering diamond solitaire, my first ring ever.

Postscript: Years later when I am a young mother, I remove the ring to apply lotion to my hands, placing it on a top of the bedroom dresser. What happens later occurs out of sight and only in our reconstructed memory: Three-year-old daughter Crista finds the ring and puts it on. Wearing it to go potty, she flushes my diamond down drain. Screams ensue. Cliff digs frantically into the lawn hoping the ring has gotten lodged somehow in the trap of the drain pipe before flowing into the Neverland of the city sewer .  .  .  to no avail.

Stand-in for the Original
Stand-in for the Original

What story can you share about receiving a special piece of jewelry?


Have you ever lost something precious? A family heirloom?


We always learn something from your comments. Thank you!


31 thoughts on “Mennonite Flashback III: Rabbits and Rings

  1. You know of course I grew up plain too–not quite as plain as your background, but engagement rings were never part of my expectations for getting married. But my boyfriend was Lutheran. As he began talking about rings, I said I didn’t really want one. A nice watch maybe, or other engagement present, if and when the time came. He could not understand that, or even imagine it. He finally said, when he was growing up and looked at his mother’s hand, he always knew he would one day have a wife who would wear a diamond ring that he bought her. I began to get used to the idea. 🙂 But oh what a loss–yours, down the drain. Keeping my fingers crossed–and my ring almost always, on.! But at least your marriage did not go down the drain!


    1. I think Mennonite girls got something practical in those days. In a previous close relationship during EMU days, my then-boyfriend talked about giving me a sewing machine. When I think about how such a thing compares to a diamond ring, I have to laugh! Yes, to those outside our culture, the idea of not wanting a ring to seal the deal seems incomprehensible.

      It’s interesting that you are apparently Lutheran like both of our children. I guess it’s the “reformer” in them — and a more liturgical style of worship.

      You are the first to comment today. Great, Melodie! I agree, better a ring to go down the drain than a marriage. 🙂


  2. What a great duet, his story and her story. It’s certainly a love story to share with your children and grandchildren, “what made daddy bake muffins for mother.” I’m so sorry it escaped the trap. I’ve written the stories about two rings on the blog: my diamond engagement ring and my family ring.


    1. I see we both unique versions of the ring story. (We could do a variation on Wagner’s Ring Cycle–Ha!)

      That’s it, isn’t it. Writing stories as legacy, the impetus for our drive to preserve stories that would otherwise be lost forever. And apparently we are part of the enormous memoir revolution now in full swing.

      I will have to search your blog for your own “ring” stories. I always enjoy your comments, Georgette. Thank you.


  3. Lovely, Marian. The part about the wonderful man who baked you a cupcake, not the flushing down the toilet part. I wonder if you got a new ring. I went back to read your other post about getting the teaching job and moving away from home. So now I know some important things about your wedding ring and you know some stories about mine. Good men in both tales.
    Best to you,


    1. It’s so interesting how much we each know one another although we’ve never met. That’s the wonderful thing about writing online, blogging in particular.

      And how fortunate too that good men star in both tales. Yes, I got another ring, pictured at the bottom of the post, but it doesn’t have the same sentimental value though it has a larger carat size. Thanks for your comment here and on Facebook too. You’re a gem!


  4. Hi Marian! Loved this story thank you .. my husband proposed to me one Sat morning – he was about to go off to golf and I to the university to register. That evening he came to fetch me to have dinner with his elderly father and guest. (My parents were elsewhere in the country though Neil had called my parents in the morning to ask them for their blessing). I’m all dressed for this formal-ish dinner .. Neil arrives and presents me with a dainty antique-y looking box. I open it not imagining .. and it was a broken silver teaspoon! Well, he hadn’t looked – he thought it was his late mother’s engagement ring! Anyway I received it later that evening – it is beautiful ring which I don’t wear ..(a very old fashioned diamond) but now that we’re writing about this I may seek it out and have it re-fashioned ..
    Garden of Eden Blog


    1. I love the bait-and-switch story you tell, though the switching was certainly unintentional in this case, Susan. Also I like how you use that strong, old word “fetch” to tell your tale. Let us know if you finally decide to have that treasure of a ring re-fashioned. 🙂


  5. Marian … I was grinning all the way through the story … until the part about it flushed away. But I am so glad you persevered with “Flying the Coop” as it has opened a wonderful new door!


    1. Mary, as I mull over the theme of my memoir, I have to ponder which slice of my life to focus on–what comes before “flying the coop” or what comes after, or a blend of the two, I’ve been told that memoir is a slice of one’s life. Hmmm.


  6. Since diamonds are forever, maybe the original ring will turn up in several hundred years and be pronounced of great value at that era’s version of “Antique Road Show.”

    When we got married, neither Dave nor I were in to jewelry, so rings were not part of our ceremony. When Dave’s mother, Eva, died in 1999, and we inherited a little money, Dave began imagining using the money for rings. By that time I felt I would like to wear such a sign of my commitment. So, it was fun to go to a jewelry shop together and explore rings, then purchase them, in time for our 19th wedding anniversary. Our gold rings are very plain, inscribed with our special dates on the inside, and we both wear them happily.

    At the first visit with my parents, still living at the time, my father looked at the ring and said, “Oh, don’t start that now.” I basically didn’t respond outwardly to my father, because I couldn’t think of anything to say that I felt comfortable saying to him at that time. (Later I have imagined all kinds of things I wish I’d tried, to see how he would respond and to share honestly how I felt when I heard his comment.)


    1. I love your first observation about the future “life” of my ring: You have a boundless imagination, Dolores!

      Then of the story about conflict with your father over your ring I can say only: Culture Clash Re-visited. I can certainly sympathize with you as my Grandma Longenecker had a similar response to seeing my diamond. On the other hand, I understand how with their own deeply-held beliefs both your dad and my Grandma would have strong reactions to jewelry, forbidden by an ordinance of the Mennonite Church. Your thoughts are always welcome here. Thanks, Dolores.


  7. Your comment about having a bigger ring that still can’t quite replace the first is revealing of the sentimental attachment we place on items that symbolize so much more than jewelry. Someone I once knew lost a wedding band and didn’t seem to mind its absence. I think it foreshadowed the divorce that followed …


    1. The last two sentences of your post sound like a story you may want to narrate some day. We have both read each other’s posts from the beginning, Traci. When you get to Jacksonville or I to Valdosta, we’ll certainly have a lot to talk about. I always appreciate your comments–thank you!


  8. A great story! My mom didn’t get an engagement ring from her practical German Canadian farmer fiancé. She got a watch which she proudly wore for 50 years. For their fiftieth anniversary Dad took her to the Maritime provinces for a once in a life time trip. While there, in Fredericton, he surprised her with a diamond ring. I guess it was worth waiting for!


    1. The first commenter, Melodie, of Mennonite background, mentions in her anecdote wanting a watch for her engagement, not a diamond ring. But she, like your mom, ended up with one too. (German frugality meets Mennonite custom, at least in the past.) I love your mantra: “Never let a day go by without a dream.” Your mother’s dream, though probably unexpressed, did come true. Thanks for the comment today, Darlene.


  9. What a lovely story made all the more precious by the telling of two souls who love one another. That’s a crafty hubby you’ve got there, Marian. A “keeper” as we like to say.


  10. I loved your his and hers version story–so sweet! Sorry though about your flushed away ring. When my husband and I were newlyweds, my little niece spent the weekend with us. I had taken my diamond ring off while cooking or cleaning up after cooking–and while I wasn’t looking she picked it up. Fortunately, I realized what had happened before it was lost.
    My older daughter received an engagement ring, but not a diamond, which she didn’t want. Her fiancee didn’t want a ring, she wanted a watch, so that’s what daughter bought her.


  11. I guess our combined stories could be entitled “Variations on the Theme of Watches and Rings.” Thanks for adding yours to the merry medley. I am so happy your ring was not permanently lost. I’ll have to chalk my loss up to allowing myself to be distracted by a 2-year-old highly active little boy, whom I didn’t mention in the original tale.


  12. Such a beautiful, touching story, Marian. His POV and yours, the ring plans and delivery…full circle to Crista’s potty version of the end of the ring…but as we all know, the love does not end.
    My mother-in-law’s family was very poor, but for her high school graduation her parents and grandparents gave her an opal ring. Years later she was visiting and the ring was lost down the sink. Her brothers took apart the crook-neck line and searched but it was gone.
    A year before Alice’s death, my husband, her son, took her on a field trip to the old neighborhood in Denver. Where the row houses had stood was now a green-space park, but still, they had to get out and look. Jim pushed her around the grounds in her wheelchair, and when she was sure where her home had been, they stopped and searched. Jim was on his hands and needs, feeling through grass where she thought she saw glints. It was more than sixty years later and Jim knew the ring wasn’t there, but he devoted an afternoon to searching for it because it was so important to his mother. A woman with such a son has something much more precious than a ring, don’t you think? 🙂


  13. Most assuredly we are married to “keepers,” as the saying goes. The love, something much more precious than a ring, does not end. I love how blogging always extends one tale into a chain of stories. Yours is certainly one to cherish.


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