Wanderlust

The adventures of a roving brass rat.

This is an improbable tale about my 1963 MIT class ring. I have proudly worn the brass rat for almost 44 years–facing, I might add, in the right direction. That is, for all but two very anxious periods. In 2002, my ring suddenly disappeared, shortly after I’d had it enlarged to slide more easily over my knuckle. One morning it was no longer in the tray on my nightstand, and I had no idea where it had gone. (I did not sleep with it. After all, it’s a lethal weapon when worn by a nighttime thrasher.) I concluded that it had slid off somewhere without my knowledge. Maybe it had been enlarged too much. I was devastated. My wife and I looked everywhere for months but found nothing.

Henry R. Nau ‘63, a professor of international studies at George Washington University, recalls paying $35 for his brass rat at the Coop his senior year.

In 2003, I attended my 40th reunion in Cambridge. I stopped at the Coop to look at new rings but did not like them. They seemed bulkier, less shiny, and definitely too expensive. Further distressed, I tried to become reconciled to not wearing a class ring for the rest of my life. Then, 18 months after the ring disappeared, it suddenly reappeared. My wife, Micki, was pulling apart the twin beds in one of the guest rooms when she noticed something flashing in the sunlight. She bent down, and there, tucked against a bedpost, was the ring! You tell me how it got there. Some licit or illicit tryst in the guest bedroom? As my wife warns: “Let’s not go there.”

Fast-forward to Christmas 2006. Micki, our daughter, Kimberly, and I were relaxing on Poipu Beach in Kauai, HI. Kimberly persuaded me to go snorkeling. I remember faintly thinking, “Give Micki your rings.” But I didn’t. We were in and out of the ocean in 10 minutes. I’m no swimmer, so I was grateful to be back on solid ground. But suddenly I sensed–no ring. God, how stupid could I be? It was gone, this time somewhere in a stretch of 50 feet or more of the Pacific Ocean. I was truly ill. My daughter dove and searched valiantly, but get real! She’d never find my ring in the churning ocean surf. For at least a day, I was a kid who’d lost his favorite toy. Then I said to myself, “Henry, at 65, you are going to lose a lot more in the next 20 years than a class ring. Get over it.” And I did–well, sort of.

Two weeks later, I was back home working at my computer. The phone rang. It was Imani Ivery at the MIT Alumni Office in Cambridge.

“Are you Henry Nau?” she asked.

“Yeeesss,” I replied warily, fully expecting another request for an alumni donation.

“I just got a call from someone in California who says he has your class ring. He gave us the initials inside the ring and asked if we could find you.”

“You have got to be kidding,” I sputtered, and immediately lost my breath.

“Call him. He wants to talk to you.”

So I did. The nicest man, Mike Mealue, answered.

“Where did you lose the ring?” he asked.

After I described the location, he replied, “Well, that’s just where I found it, maybe ten feet from shore in about two to three feet of water”–about where I had taken off my flippers. He said he was an amateur prospector and liked to look for stuff. He’s too modest.

One week later, I received the ring in the mail and put it back on my finger. Now I sleep with it and, well, pretty much worship it. It’s immortal, right? What happens next? I should probably insure it and put it in a safe-deposit box. But that’s not going to make this ring happy. It will seek some way to break out and get lost again. So stay tuned. If I lose it again, my wife will tell the story. My heart will never survive a third time.

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