My mother sent me a picnic basket full of old slides. A leak at our house had damaged a storage box, but she said she had dried them out and they looked fine. “Just send them to me,” I urged, “I’ll store them in the garage.” I’ve recently become worried that my mother’s desire to downsize is going to result in a full-scale liquidation of every object in our childhood home. Consequently, I’m trying to repatriate as much a possible. So when I opened the promised picnic basket, I was surprised to find not a hundred or so slides, but literally thousands. Slides from the 60s and 70s, slides of my mother windswept in Caribbean, picturesque shots of palm trees and, heartbreakingly, slide after slide of my mother and father looking very happy together.
It is hard for me, as a child of divorce (to use the dramatic 80s turn of phrase), to understand what to do with these images of happiness. I tried to explain to my husband the sadness and strange nostalgia these images evoke for me, like the promise of a lovely future that never quite materialized. Or did and slipped away. Until I talked about it with him, I don’t think I understood emotionally and intellectually that not everyone is moved to tears by early parent pictures in quite this way.
It made me even more committed to start photo albums for us after I finish our wedding album. Even, or especially knowing how these things can end, I feel very strongly that happy years are worth preserving.
I am also thinking about how to archive all the slides: for me and my brother, for my nephews, and hopefully for my future children. I know that they will not feel the same emotions I do as they look at them. That’s a good thing.
I just watched the last episode of Friday Night Lights. I started watching the show before I was engaged, before the man I love moved in, before we got married. For someone who didn’t have a lot of positive examples of what a healthy marriage looked like growing up, the marriage between the characters of Eric and Tami on this show really impacted me. They seemed flawed, human, and they struggled to prioritize their relationship amid a lot of life demands and distractions. I watched five seasons of them struggle with family issues, job issues, and at the end of all this I watched them come out together on the other side. It is a tribute to the writers, actors, directors, and crew of that show that they were able to create such a compelling and moving picture of a marriage. I’m grateful for it; I’ve learned from it. And I’m sorry the show is over.
During my reading this week, I came across the last lines of John Donne’s poem “The Anniversary”:
True and false fears let us refrain,
Let us love nobly, and live, and add again
Years and years unto years, til we attain
To write threescore: this is the second of our reign.
A few days ago something very tragic happened: I was pregnant and we discovered we had unexpectedly lost the baby. Today is our first wedding anniversary, and as you can imagine it suddenly wasn’t the 100% happy occasion that we had hoped it would be.
We went back to our wedding location and today we stood under the pepper tree where we exchanged our vows exactly a year ago. Holding the hands of my husband and looking into his eyes I was reminded, as I have been reminded again and again in the first year of our marriage, that being fortunate enough to be married the man you love makes everything better, even the worst times.
So when people ask how my husband and I met, I used to feel a little embarrassed telling the story. Not because we met in some awkward way–it’s a crazy story!–but because we didn’t. We met, he asked me out, we started dating. Not exactly epic. I wasn’t backpacking through Tibet and there was this guy sitting next to me on the bus…Or the story of my friend’s sister.* And to add to the problem, I am not one of those people who think their life stories are super-fascinating to other people. (Even though, yes, I write this blog. Oh, the contradiction.). So I didn’t really feel like we had a love story in caps.
Like in the Taylor Swift song, Love Story. That’s the epitome of the American Love Story: drama, doubt, happy ending. Rebel, angry dad, absent boyfriend–does this sound familiar to anyone? Those wedding ads for that Beautiful perfume should just jump on that: the Swift song could solve their advertising problems forever! If anyone hasn’t heard the song 5,000,000 times by now, it’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet from Juliet’s point of view, but without the death and poison; her troubles end with Romeo’s marriage proposal.
I was thinking about the words of the song tonight and love stories and despite the fact that maybe the man I love and I didn’t hit all the Shakespearian plot points, ours is a love story in the Swiftian sense. Not because of the drama and doubt (there was some, of course), but because of the happy ending. We fell in love and got married–now that’s a love story!
At dinner with my husband tonight I was suddenly aware of a new emotion: I felt proud. Not proud of him, which has happened before. I just found myself thinking that he is a good man and I am the woman who is lucky enough to be married to him. That’s a good type of pride.
The lovely and wonderful Meg at A Practical Wedding does a series called “wedding graduate” posts where women who have gotten married write in about their wedding and what they learned–and today the post is from me! A Practical Wedding is a very special thing. Not only is it (in my opinion) the best wedding blog out there, but it fanned the frenzy of my imaginary wedding in the early stages and helped inspire me to write this blog. Thanks, Meg!
I caught up with a friend today who I haven’t seen since the wedding and she said something that made me very happy. She said how much she had liked our ceremony. How it started unexpectedly (in a good way), how people leaned forward to listen and how she noticed that, as it progressed, people started to hold hands and put their arms around their dates/loves. How, she said, it made everyone feel addressed and included. As she talked about it, tears came to my eyes, and I hung my head, overcome with post-wedding emotion.
I knew how much the ceremony meant to me before the wedding, as we made choices about what passages and words would be said. I read it tearily to myself a few times, imagining the words being spoken on our wedding day. What I didn’t imagine was how powerful it would be to me after our wedding, how special and how meaningful.
At my first marriage we didn’t really have to say anything when we got married in City Hall except “I do.” We did exchange some sort of vows in our backyard quite a few months later–that was the extent of the ceremony. I put off writing my vows, then did it quickly that morning. They seemed less important than picking up the indian food from around the corner.
I no longer think this. I think the ceremony is the heart of the wedding. It contains a legal act–and potentially a religious one–but also, perhaps because it is ceremonial, something magical. The ceremony is a spell you weave over yourselves and your audience. The ceremony is powerful; the vows are binding. It is worth spending some time on, because it is infused with great joy and emotion that lasts long after the wedding.
I have now been married for over a month, and I thought I would make a few statements about our wedding:
1) It was worth every penny we spent on it. Looking back on our wedding the next day I felt nothing but deep satisfaction. As someone who has been involved in a number of productions and always feels that things could have turned out better, this is quite (delightfully) out of character.
2) It was lovely and every thing went smoothly. It wasn’t hot. We had plenty of alcohol. People smiled. The speeches were touching and everyone seemed to like everything: the food, the DJ, the flowers, the location. Even my dress. My mom looked genuinely happy. The owner of our venue told me that if I ever wanted a different line of work, I could become a event coordinator. A flattering and terrifying thought.
3) It’s really true what they say. I was in a total daze. I barely heard all the beautiful words of our officiant because I was struggling to take it all in. It truly was like I was up in the clouds and I just touched down occasionally, not necessarily at the moments you would think: oh look, they are giving me a salad! And then I went back up into dazed bridey-bride land.
4) I married the man I love. There is one photo (even the pictures came out great!) of him smiling a me during the ceremony. I carry this image in my heart, right next to memory of standing up there with him looking at him and not registering much else of anything. We got married, and it was swell.
After my last very happy post, I am now feeling bad. For some reason, I was very nervous about picking up my dress from the bridal store. I guess I felt that when I tried it on, that would be it–because the wedding is next week. (!) No time for crash diets, major surgery, a major make-over, just me, pretty much how I will look on my wedding day. And I was feeling worried about that.
So after I tried it on, I turned to the woman who zipped me up and said, completely insecurely, “Is it ok?” She asked me when my wedding was and then imparted some advice, “Don’t eat for the next week.” I was sort of stunned. ”You think?” I asked. She nodded sagely, “Just drink water.”
Needless to say, I will not just be drinking water for the next week. But all my fears about not being lovely enough were unfortunately confirmed by a (I truly believe!) well-intentioned lady in alterations. I have been trying to do all the right things; I guess she just felt I could do more. I never expected to look like a glamourous princess on my wedding day; I was however hoping for very pretty. Perhaps after a good nights sleep I will feel the rage towards this poor lady and admire myself in the mirror for hours, but today it is not so good.
P.S. I should add that many of my friends and fiance threatened to go beat up this lady and assured me that I would look beautiful wearing a sack. Which is why great friends and marrying the man you love is the best measure of wedding success I can think of.