For Christmas, Mike gave me Chip and Joanna Gaines’ book, The Magnolia Story – it had been on my list for months, and I stayed up all night to read it that very day. If you haven’t read it, I won’t ruin anything for you, but the book chronicles how famous “Fixer Upper” TV renovators “Chip and Jo” fell in love and made their life’s work making beauty out of ugly, abandoned homes in Waco, TX. For me, a lover of all seeing gold in old, quirky things, the show hits so close to home and has taught me so much. When Mike and I moved into our first home, a little green house on a quiet street, I wondered how we would ever make it feel like it was ours. But, week by week, with lots of (Mike’s) elbow grease and help from our families, our home took shape into something that was completely our own. And, we did it on a budget! A borrowed light fixture here, a thrift shop side table there. I remember nesting in Finn’s nursery, sitting back in a funky chair I’d found (on sale, for $80!) thinking, “This feels like home.” His room was my favorite in the whole house, just as it should be. While we never quite got to “Fixer Upper” status, the house was ours, and that meant everything. Even now, in our new-build home in Texas, I sometimes long for old things – things with charm and history.
My favorite part of Chip and Jo’s book is reading how Chip surprised Joanna by bringing her to a jeweler to design her own engagement ring. He’d borrowed some money from his parents to give her the ring of her dreams. She opted, of course, for an antique setting. Joanna Gaines is not a simple solitaire kind of girl. Years later, when their renovation business became successful, he took her to the jeweler again, this time to “upgrade” her diamond. This is my favorite part. She looks at her ring, then dead into the eyes of the jeweler and says, “Thank you, but I love my ring just the way it is.”
This is the remarkable thing about Joanna Gaines: She has, by my account, the money to change her lifestyle – upgrading her ring is not a lofty, unprecedented expense. But she hasn’t stopped seeing the beauty in old, quirky things. She knows the value of the diamond isn’t it’s cut or clarity, but in the love and commitment that went into it when Chip anxiously asked her to marry him.
Mike spent a lot of time shopping for rings – He has told me about how he wandered into Tiffany & Co. on his lunch break, and was beaten bloody with details. (He now knows all about cut and clarity, thanks to Susan at Tiffany.) But, nothing there felt right. So, when we were on a mini-getaway to Kennebunkport, Maine (where my parents were married) and we wandered into an antiques and estate shop and happened upon this ring – my ring – I was stopped in my tracks by how beautiful it was. He suggested I try it on, and I was all-too-happy to comply. I loved it. It was one-of-a-kind. It was old. It had lots of history (it was made in the early 1920’s), just like Mike and I, who met in elementary school. But, I didn’t think he was that serious about getting married. I didn’t know if I was, to be honest. I thought this was merely market research. For “one day.” I gave the ring back to the store’s owner and didn’t give it much more thought. We left the store, strolled into another boutique where I got lost in the art and candles, and Mike immediately called the jeweler who showed us the ring. “Do not sell that ring,” he told them, “I will be back.” And he was.
He didn’t know when or how he’d propose, but he knew he would, so he bought the ring. He spent the hard-earned money he’d saved, fresh out of college, on a ring because he knew it made my eyes light up.
Every time I look at it I think about us, young and naive in Kennebunkport, but smart enough to know we’d found a good thing. And, if one day he’s silly enough to suggest an “upgrade,” I’ll laugh and remind him: There’s beauty in old things, things with history.