Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Tortured Artist

Wonderful Husband and I celebrated our second anniversary yesterday, which got me thinking about all the details of our wedding and the planning that went into it.  I know some brides who've had some real ups and downs when it's come to wedding planning, and I'm sure we had our fair share, but those aren't particularly interesting (at least not for comedic purposes).  What was interesting about our pre-wedding activities was the quest for my wedding band.  If it hadn't happened to me, I would never have believed it. 

It all started with my brilliant idea to use my great-grandmother's and grandmother's diamonds to have my ring made rather than going with a ready-made ring. I had inherited the diamonds from my grandmother years ago and really wanted the sentimental aspect for my ring.  I had a design in mind, and set about finding a reasonably priced jeweler who could do what I needed.  A good friend of mine, the Other Bride, who was also getting married around the same time recommended her jeweler, with one caveat:  "I have to warn you before you go there, if you decide to use her." An eyebrow was raised, but as a harried bride-to-be, I didn't feel like doing any additional research.

OB went on to say that the jeweler's shop, located in Old Town, Alexandria, was messy and that she's (as OB's now-husband put it), "a tortured artist." So I played phone tag with the Ring Lady and eventually set up an appointment to drop off my diamonds and talk about design.  I had no idea what was waiting for me on the other end of that phone. No warning OB issued could have possibly prepared me for anything to come.  One day after work, I headed over to the shop.  The door was locked, so I felt a little confused. I had confirmed the appointment with RL twice.  I knocked and waited.  Then I called, and she informed me she'd be right there.  A rustle, shuffle, and bang later and the door opened about 12 inches and Ring Lady's face peered out.  "Come on in, it's a little messy because I'm having my office remodeled."  Cue the understatement of the year.

I turned sideways and sidled into the "store." What met my eyes next was unlike anything I've ever seen before or since.  To my left, just inside the door was a row of glass cases full of jewelry.  The first case was shattered, the jagged edge covered with duct tape, all the jewelry still intact inside with shards of glass at the bottom of the case.  To my right was a small space, just large enough for one person to stand and a small ottoman where I was told to sit while she looked at my ring.  Surrounding me, were more cases, several armoires, piles of papers, a broken chair, and trays and trays of jewelry.  Real jewelry.  Diamonds, and rubies, and emeralds, oh my!  (I'd like to pause here to mention that I live in great fear of becoming a hoarder.  As I've mentioned before, I'm quite the packrat, and were it not for WH, I could easily descend into madness.  So there was just a small part of me that got Ring Lady.) 

While RL whipped out her loup and looked at my ring and diamonds, I picked pieces of jewelry up from the trays around the ottoman where I was sitting.  I started to twitch.  And itch.  And worry that I had made a grave mistake giving this woman a tiny family heirloom, and I had yet to let her out of my sight.  I reminded myself of OB's endorsement (and the endorsement of the friend who had referred OB to the RL).  And to be fair, the jewelry strewn about the shop haphazardly was really beautifully done.  So, I ignored the voice in my head and left the jewelry with RL.  She assured me that it would be completed at least two weeks before the wedding.  When she handed me the estimate, I nearly fainted.  It was extremely reasonable.  Way less expensive than anything else I'd seen, and being a budget-minded gal, I was all in.  Off I went, wary, but able to check one more thing off my wedding checklist. 

The real fun began when my mother offered up her original wedding band, from which I chose to use the white gold and diamond baguettes.  I called RL about a month after the first visit to check on the progress and see if it would be possible to incorporate the elements from my mother's ring as well.  "What a nice idea," she agreed. "I haven't started yet, so why don't you come by on the weekend and drop it off."  This time, so as not to have this simply be a figment of my imagination, I recruited my friend the Policy Lawyer to join me, with the promise of lunch in Old Town afterwards. 

I should probably mention that PL is probably one of the most well put-together people I know.  She's always imaculately dressed, and her home is beautifully appointed.  I had no idea how she might react to the hoarder's paradise I was about to subject her to.  The routine was the same . . . RL didn't answer when I knocked.  She let the phone ring and ring.  Just as PL and I were about to leave, RL shuffled, rustled, and banged her way to the door.  The twelve inches opened and I squeezed in first, as PL shimmied in behind me.  The door barely shut, but as it did, a dictionary fell out of nowhere on PL's ankle, causing her to gasp.  Ring Lady was absolutely unphased, "Oh, just kick that aside. I'm redoing my office and it's been a real nightmare." It was at this point when I heard a rustle from deep within.  I peered around RL and saw a small Scottie dog nosing around the rubbish.  (This has become a bone of contention between Policy Lawyer and myself, as she insists I was making up the dog, but I have witnesses . . . there was a dog in there somewhere.)

Ring Lady went "into the back" to get my other ring out of the safe while PL and I stood there.  I almost didn't dare to look at my friend, for fear that a) she would pick up the dictionary that had fallen on her and beat me to death with it or b) a simple glance between us would result in near pee-in-your-pants giggles (as has been known to happen when the two of us are together).  I could, however, hear her snorting behind me.  "What is this place?" she whispered to me.  I ignored her for the aforementioned reasons.  Just then, RL shuffled back with a large envelope into which she dropped the second family heirloom.  Again she assured me that the ring would be ready "about two weeks before the wedding," and sent me on my way. 

We were no sooner out the door and back in the car than my friend shrieked, "Oh . . . my . . . god . . ." between gasps for air.  She had dissolved into hysteria, laughing and (I think, maybe) crying a little as she marveled at what we had seen.  ". . . and that dictionary just fell on me, but she didn't even care.  What the hell!" It went on like that for some time -- until I mentioned the dog.  This fact was met with a declaration of, "You are lying!  A dog?  A dog?  There was no dog.  A parrot, maybe, but a dog?  No way!"  And on we went.  This occupied our conversation for the rest of the day --especially the possibility of the parrot.  We really got some mileage out of that one.  If there had been a parrot, it would surely have squawked, "Aaawk! Watch your step!" in a parrot voice.  "I tried to tell you.  I tried to warn you," I kept saying to her.  But how, exactly, do you warn someone of a hoarder's jewelry store with falling dictionaries, Scottish terriers, and shattered display cases? You can't. 

Flash forward to two weeks before the wedding.  I'll bet you'll never guess what happened?  The ring wasn't ready.  I should've known when Ring Lady neglected to return my calls.  Not the best time to ignore a bride-to-be.  Up to this point, I had been a pretty good bride, but a bride who reserved the right to go "Bridezilla" if necessary.  At last RL called me back, informing me that her "diamond setter" had been sick, but that the ring would absolutely be ready within a week.  I tried to remain calm, after all, this woman did have family heirlooms (not to mention the fate of my wedding band) in her hands (or her safe, or under a stack of newspapers, or in her terrier's stomach . . . you get the drift).  The ensuing week flew by with appointments for dress fittings, pedicures, and visiting family.  Still no word from Ring Lady.  But did I panic? Did I storm her mounds of mess? Nope. I remained calm, calling to check in.  She informed me that the ring would be ready Thursday.  Evening. As in two days before the wedding.  One small hiccup and I would be buying my ring out of a gumball machine (reminiscent of the lucite sparkler they used in Four Weddings and a Funeral). 

Fortunately, WH, his father, brother, and my father had to go to Old Town Thursday evening to pick up their tuxedos, so I implored my father to pick up the ring for me.  After all, I had paid for it in advance (yeah, I know).  When he called me to say that he'd gotten the ring, and that it was "really nice" he seemed strangely unphased.  "That was one weird woman," he said.  Of course, after having been called a liar, I asked him if he had seen a dog.  "Yeah, a little Scottie." Vindication! 

My wedding band
(apologies for the bad cellphone-photo quality*)
So, if you ever need a recommendation for a jeweler, I know a really good one that's definitely worth the price of admission just to see the place . . . but I can't promise she hasn't been institutionalized or, better yet, featured on a recent episode of Hoarders.  Or maybe, just maybe, that "office renovation" has finally been finished and she's simply put all of her stuff away at last. 

*My camera was recently ruined at a friend's wedding in a wine-in-the-purse related mishap.

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