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This Ring Thing

This week, I had the good fortune to order my Cobber ring. For the next six to eight weeks due to shipping and handling, I will anxiously await a small, gold delivery. Being male and a bit of a classicist, it’s the first ring I’ve ever worn, and the only one I plan on wearing for a while. I chose a simple engraving, just my initials. The bookstore basement of the Norm was shared by plenty of other eager Cobbers lining up to place their order before the ring people had been going even 30 minutes.

It struck me that we were all so excited to hand over a sizable amount of money for this small gold token, where in high school such a thing was scarcely seen, a ring-wearer being an oddity, even. I remember three years ago being told by a tour guide that it was a right of passage, that you’d managed to make it through three years at this school. In the past years, it’s come to mean something else entirely, although I’d never quite been able to put my finger on it.

I realized at this moment what the Cobber ring means. In my eyes, it’s a sign of unity and identity through time. Our ring is simple; aside from being an amalgam of precious metals and jewels, it’s hardly fancy or ornate. In comparison, the rings at our high school were much more ornate and could be personalized to anything under the sun. I think that ultimately this is the difference in the Cobber ring. While in high school, the rings varied wildly—no two were truly alike. As a result, they symbolized nothing. The same design has been used here for the past 90 years. In that time, thousands of students have passed through the halls of Concordia, and they bring this simple ring along with them. We’ve given it meaning beyond a simple class ring. It’s distinctive in its simplicity.

I’ve often heard that seeing the ring bodes well for students in interviews. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it’s beside the point. The fact of the matter is we can identify ourselves with a ring that even outsiders can recognize. The past two years, I’ve worked selling CD’s at the Christmas concerts, and I have gotten used to the habit of checking hands for the ruby red flash as hands cross, shake and greet each other. They appear on the fingers of recent alums, faces I recognize from my first years here. They appear on the hands of middle-aged men and women raising kids of their own. They frequently show up, slightly dulled, on the wrinkled right hands of elder alumni who have made the trip back to Concordia one more time, decades after their own time at school.

Even for those who don’t own a ring, the sight of one allows Cobbers to identify each other outside of school, instantly giving people a connection and a shared heritage. While outsiders recognize the ring, we recognize what it truly means. Let’s face it: we are not the only “Concordia” in higher education, in fact there are dozens. Even our school colors are massively out-used in the same pairing claimed by the University of Minnesota. Yet the ring remains our own, an inimitable symbol of shared history and connected lineage that binds us together not just on campus, but for the rest of our lives.

I’ll put that on my finger.

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