At some point during my junior year of high school, I decided it would be a good idea to buy a class ring. The salesman was on campus and was doing a good job of convincing the student population that this was a necessary piece of nostalgia. Buying my class ring seemed like this important rite of passage, like getting a driver’s license or landing that first job bagging groceries.
I don’t have my class ring anymore. Well, I can’t really say I don’t have it anymore. I just don’t know where it is. It could be in a box somewhere, still in my possession. Or it could be lost somewhere, never to be seen again. I don’t really miss it. I’m not a ring-wielding kind of guy anyway. After my freshman year of college, I just stopped thinking about wearing it. And it stopped fitting my finger, which probably played into why I stopped wearing it a little.
But I don’t really want to talk about my missing class ring. The story I want to tell is about my Dad’s missing class ring. Really… it’s a good story.
Dad graduated from William Fleming High School back in 1972. That’s not too important to the story, I just wanted to give you the approximate time frame. A few years later, he was living in an apartment complex in Roanoke called Frontier Apartments. This was just before he and my Mom got engaged, around 1977. While he was living there, the property owners decided to remodel the second story balconies on all the buildings. Remember that detail, because it becomes important later on.
He wasn’t sure when or where or how he misplaced his class ring, but at some point that year, he lost it.
And now we flash forward nearly 20 years. Mom received a phone call at the house one day. This is back when we all still had land lines. The lady on the phone asked if she had called the home of the Lee Peck that graduated from William Fleming High in 1972. Mom thought this was odd, but confirmed that identity. Maybe this was a call about an upcoming reunion. They were coming up on 25 years. But that’s not what it was about at all.
The woman that called began telling her story. Her grandchild was playing in her back yard and found this ring lying in the dirt and grass toward the back of the property. Turns out, it was Dad’s class ring. She found his name inscribed on the inside, then looked in the phone book for Lee Peck. She called the house and gave Mom directions to where she lived in Vinton (the next town over from Roanoke).
When Mom got to this woman’s home, they put their heads together and figured out just how my Dad’s high school ring could go missing somewhere in Roanoke, then turn up 20 years later in a random back yard in Vinton.
The woman’s in-laws, as it turned out, were the owners of Frontier Apartments, where Dad had once lived. When they decided to have the balconies remodeled, they gave all the old lumber from the demolished balconies to their son and his wife. That lumber sat in their back yard in Vinton for a long time. Somehow, Dad’s ring must have fallen into one of the scrap piles during the demolition. Maybe it got hung on a nail while it was being transported. Long after this family had gotten rid of the scrap, the ring laid there in their yard.Mom came home and surprised Dad with the found class ring. After 20 years, he figured he would never see the thing again. He wore it for a while after reacquiring it. Occasionally he would make April and I kiss the ring. It was all very Godfather. Eventually, I guess, he stopped wearing it again. I think April has it somewhere these days. She might have my class ring, too. Maybe I should ask her about it…