The Circle of Mercy Is Timeless

I have not worn my high-school ring in close to fourteen years. There was a time when I never took it off: from the day I received it in March 1999, through the summer after graduation the following year, I wore it every single day, the thick gold band on my finger a weighty, comforting reminder of how much I adored Merion Mercy Academy and how proud I was to be a student there. But then I started college … and the ring was really big, and a little clunky … and I stopped wearing yellow gold in favor of silver jewelry … and within a few months, the ring had taken up residence in my top dresser drawer. It’s remained there ever since, though every now and then, when I’m at my parents’ house, I’ll take it out and slip it on, admiring the sheen of the deep blue stone and the gold Mercy crest atop it. As soon as I pass the ring over my finger, I know exactly how it will feel—the cold slickness of the gold, the square edges of its rectangular setting. Even though I haven’t worn the ring in years, I could never part with it.

I’m not the only MMA alumna to feel such attachment to her class ring. From Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon (Shanghai time, that is), my Facebook feed filled with photos of other Merion graduates and their rings. Some posted pictures from the day they had received their rings; some snapped photos of their young daughters wearing them (captioned “Merion Class of XX!”); others arranged the rings with mementos of high-school life—yearbooks, prom pictures, senior portraits, diplomas. In some cases, the photos featured several generations of Merion women, celebrating the families in which attending MMA is a tradition stretching back decades.

Obviously, this ring frenzy wasn’t spontaneous—it was, rather, a celebration organized by Moira McGoldrick (my classmate and friend!) to wish the current Merion juniors luck on their own Ring Day. Last weekend, Moira circulated an email on the alumnae list asking us all to take a minute and share a picture of ourselves with our rings, and people responded. Big time. Scrolling through the MMA Alumnae Facebook page, I count about 150 #MerionMercyRingDay posts. Some women wrote laments that they had lost their rings, or that they had been stolen, often asking how they could order replacements. People shared memories of their Ring Mass, of times when they had nearly lost their rings, but then recovered them, of waiting impatiently for the spring of their junior year so they too would finally have a Merion ring to wear. I remember that feeling.

Since I didn’t think to bring my MMA ring to Shanghai with me—it should still be safely tucked away at my parents’ house, I hope!—I had to improvise a little in order to participate. Proving once again that I am a wretched artist and completely deserved the C that Sister Ethel gave me on calligraphy in freshman art class, I made a temporary ring of my own:

MMA ring

A terrible imitation, but the sentiment was genuine!

Moira’s idea for this Ring Day celebration was a fantastic one, and I really enjoyed seeing so many alumnae come together to show their Merion spirit and loyalty. Time and time again, I have recognized how fortunate I was that my parents enabled me to attend high school there—it was a huge financial sacrifice for them, but one that (I’d like to think) paid off.

To be honest, though, I was a little surprised at first when I realized just how many people were posting ring pictures; I had expected that some alumnae would participate, but 150 exceeded my expectations by a lot! But I quickly realized that I really shouldn’t have been surprised—MMA fosters a strong sense of community and school spirit from the moment new students enter its doors, and that continues long after we leave campus. As students learn soon after they arrive, “The circle of Mercy is timeless,” proven once again this Ring Day.

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