Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our Story, Part VIII: The Ring Dance

Stop. Don't skip ahead.  Read the other parts first:  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII.  Ok, now go on.

I've been alluding to "The Ring Dance" for quite a while now.  That's because it's a pretty special event in cadet life and in our relationship as well.  It's also taken very seriously by Coast Guardsmen, as evidenced in this YouTube video.  The Ring Dance is when second class cadets receive their class ring.  Their big, honkin' class ring.  The ring bears the class crest on one side and the officer's crest on the other.  The stone in Jon's ring just so happens to be a chunk of the granite that Chase Hall (the dorms) sits on.  Throughout their Academy career, the cadet wears the ring with the class crest closest to their heart.  After graduation the wearer switches the ring so that the officer's crest is toward them instead. 

Traditionally the ring is worn on the left hand *gasp* but recently it's becoming more acceptable to wear it on the right, so as not to compete with a wedding band.  Jon's always worn his on the right.  Even during our wedding, see you can't miss it:

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Photography by David Miller
During their second class (Junior) year, cadets receive their ring at The Ring Dance.  The evening starts out with dinner, which is when the cadet's escort (or date) is given the ring to wear on a ribbon around her neck.  After dinner, at the dance, the couple moves to the "ring monument" where each take an end of the ribbon and dip the ring in "The Water of the Seven Seas."  (a.k.a. tap water in a fancy urn.)  Then the escort places the ring on the cadet's finger and finishes the ceremony off with a kiss.

This is what I learned while reading Jon's yearbook on the way home from that fateful fall football game. And it's a good thing I did because he certainly didn't tell me any of this ahead of time.  I would've been a little unprepared.

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Jon had bought a new car a few weeks before the dance, so I was the lucky one to drive it from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to turn it over to him.  We got to spend some time together, went to a Coast Guard baseball game, visited Mystic Harbor, saw a beach in Rhode Island.  Then it was time for the big event.

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Jon picked me up in his new Cherokee.  And I thought he looked positively dashing in his "dinner dress whites."  Dinner was a five-course meal, with more forks than I'd ever seen at one place setting.  I was pretty nervous, all dressed up at some fancy military function, meeting many of Jon's friends for the first time, trying to make small talk with other anxious dates.  Plus that ring around my neck was getting really heavy.  I also ended up with a fatty piece of steak, and since I couldn't think of a way to dispose of it in such a suave setting, I ended up choking it all down... which Jon got a kick out of the rest of the evening. 

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After dinner we stood in line for over an hour waiting to dip our rings.  More nervousness.  See, Jon and I were still "just friends" at this point, and definitely hadn't kissed.  Nor was I anticipating our first kiss to be in front of several hundred people, under a giant plaster ring.  Nevertheless, that is what happened.  How embarassing.  Girls, don't follow my example.  According to my journal, "The kiss happened very fast, I really don't remember much of it."  And I still don't remember much of it.  First kisses are overrated, but at least I have plenty of pictures to commemorate the evening.

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Even though the whole shabang is called a Ring Dance, Jon and I didn't dance.  We're not much for dancing.  In fact, we didn't even have dancing at our wedding.  But we loved just having some time together, since that was so rare throughout our whole "friendship."  We spent some time on the deck outside the dance floor.  The stars reflected off the river, sailboats danced in the moonlight and a very handsome cadet kept telling me I was beautiful.  It was a perfect evening.  And when it ended I was totally, completely in love.

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