Queen’s wave

It’s said that the origin of the queen’s wave dates back to the era of King George V and Queen Mary, both enthusiastic wavers who after suffering wrist strains, sought a medical consultation and modified their greetings to the masses to the present day “opening a jam jar” royal motion.

I bring this up as I was thinking about the many ways we greet and acknowledge people we don’t know during various everyday activities. As I was taking one of my solitary walks this evening on a local bike path, I fell into my “give a half nod and weak wave” habit as I passed strangers tramping in the opposite direction. It’s that odd thing, wherein you don’t want to be rude and ignore someone you don’t know, but also don’t want to come across as a crazed, staring stalker.

I have noticed informally that people in my age bracket are more likely to return my wave or make some eye contact. Young boys and most young girls or women stare straight ahead, or have mastered the art of walking while checking texts and so don’t feel obliged to engage at all. I tend to veer too much to one side, heading for trees or ravines when I try to multi task like that. What a talent they have, (she said sarcastically)!

So how did all of this crazy waving and nodding start, anyway? I mean, why don’t we just bump heads or do the shimmy when we see people instead? According to that great online all-knowing explainer of things, Wikipedia, waving likely started out in the late 1700’s as a military salute. Fancier folks even waved handkerchiefs to either show their approval or to signal someone.

In my small lake community, everyone waves at one another when passing in cars. My late husband James used to take it to the extreme. While in our car passing a neighbor he would loudly proclaim, “How ya’ doing!” while giving an exaggerated wave, even though they could not hear him from the sealed safety of their own vehicle. And if I failed to wave or to acknowledge a wave, he called me on it.  He was of course being a bit of a smart ass.

I don’t know where he got that from.

Ring of truth

I married relatively later in life, and so being unfamiliar with some of its rituals, had asked my friend Pam about a rather important one in particular.

“How do you wear your wedding rings? Does the engagement ring go on the outside of the band or vice versa?” I queried, one giddy day as we were planning my upcoming nuptials.

James had recently proposed – properly on one knee, in a park. A dozen roses had also been waiting in the back seat of his car on that spritzy November day.

Now, I was planning a modest wedding and had a wedding band in my future to add to the Celtic-designed diamond ring he had already put on my finger. So according to Pam, it was a matter of comfort and personal taste. I ended up wearing my wedding band closest to me and engagement ring on the outside. (I think Pam does too.)

Fast forward. When James died, the funeral home gave me back his wedding band, a replica of mine,  before sending his body to the crematorium.

I have been wearing it ever since on my wedding ring finger. A combination of arthritis and puffiness made my bands a bit too tight, so his fits nicely on my left hand.

In her most excellent book Widow to Widow,  Genevieve Davis Ginsberg, M.S, devotes a short chapter on whether to wear your rings once you lose your spouse. She had talked to and counseled hundreds of widows before writing her very practical book which I am currently enjoying (if that’s the right word). Truth as she reveals, is that there is no wrong or right to it. Some people think they can’t move on unless they remove their rings. Others have them melted down and made into a new piece of jewelry. Speaking of widow jewelry, one young widow I had befriended for a short time after James died, had her husband’s ashes made into a fancy piece of jewelry. An expensive process called glass cremation jewelry. There’s a market for everything!

I find comfort in wearing James’ wedding ring with its reminder of the wonderful husband he always strived to be, and for the most part was. However, I also know I wear it because I can’t deal with the thought of being single. I went too long being single before finding James, and don’t like facing the fact I have come full circle.

I liked belonging to someone, and the secure feeling that it gave me to be married. Again, I had asked Pam years ago if she felt any different after she got married. The answer as I recall was yes. You feel a connection that no matter what, that person will be there for you because of the bond you formed in marriage.

I loved that bond. No matter if we were having a good day or bad day, I knew James would be in bed beside me at night. No one likes widowhood. We hate going to the grocery store and checking out with just one sweet potato, one of this, one of that. We feel conspicuous although rationally know it’s just in our minds.

The wedding band makes me feel less conspicuous. It proclaims to people on the street that I belong to someone. They don’t need to know that person is gone. They don’t need to know that I feel as Davis Ginsberg so aptly puts it, like a frosted cardboard cake. Someone once thought I was special enough to bond to for life. I so miss that someone.