I have to tell this story in a factual way. I don’t know how to tell it any other way because it was made incredibly clear to me that there is really no emotion associated in the telling.
That revelation speaks volumes.
I have various plastic containers in my closet. They hold various items: clothing (summer or winter depending upon the season), travel necessities (even though I don’t travel), papers that someone important has decided you must keep for 3, 7, 10 years…
These all sit up on the top shelves, gathering dust for the most part. One clear plastic container holds mementos and keepsakes. Things like yearbooks, and old school photos. Diplomas and some things made or given to me by my kids when they were young. I glance at the box when I’m getting dressed in the morning. For some time I’ve meant to get the box down and remove an item that I have no idea why I kept. I can only guess that at some point I had the idea that one or more of my children would want to use for their own wedding. It’s a cake knife. A wedding cake knife. It’s not anything expensive. Something in fact that I think I bought at a Hallmark store and added a peach color bow to when preparing for my wedding in 1983.
I have a box of things gathered up to be tossed in the direction of the local Goodwill charity. I wanted that knife to go in the box. When I opened the container to get the knife I was also witness to a few other wedding keepsakes that time and circumstances have allowed me to forget still exist in that plastic container.
I found yellow and brittle news announcements of my engagement and a few bridal shower invitations. I found an aging wedding invitation itself, with the official wedding announcement we submitted to the newspaper because that’s what you did in 1983, you told the world how happy you were and how you would love this person forever. I found a poem from a man who is a long-time friend of my spouse and written as a way to tell us congratulations and how perfect our love was going to be. I found the words that the minister said during our ceremony and the vows we said to each other, handwritten on 3 x 5 index cards. I chose not to read those.
I found one of those ‘this is your wedding year in review’ calendars full of monthly pages and stickers of the BIG EVENTS that marked year #1. I think these sorts of calendars were pretty popular in the 1980’s as I have them for my kids as well.
I also found a number of cards -birthday, anniversary, Christmas cards, and even a few letters – given to me by my fiance/husband. I chose not to read those as well, mostly because I remember what they said, and mostly because I remember when, and why they stopped.
I found a black and white wedding picture. It is the one we submitted to the newspaper along with our wedding announcement. I stand with the barest hint of a smile playing at my lips. He stands stoic, unsmiling. I would like to say that there was something prophetic in that picture, but I can’t if I’m honest. I remember I was going for some sort of dreamy, pondering-my-upcoming-blissful-life look, which obviously failed to come through in the photo. For his part, my husband never smiled in pictures then. Even though he had nice porcelain crowns he clung to the emotional baggage from years of dental neglect, financial issues and related large fillings during childhood.
Lastly, I found a small baggie. It contains my wedding ring, an anniversary ring, and his wedding band. I took my rings off some years back. I know that I was thinking just how difficult it would be to remove them if I needed to as my arthritic, enlarging, twisted knuckles kept morphing before my eyes. That’s what I told myself anyway.
After some time, and after the changes in my hands slowed when I left work, there seemed no real reason to put the rings back on. It made me chuckle to see how dull my rings were when they sat next to his band. I believe that the only time he ever had his wedding ring on was on the day we married. Sitting next to mine, his looks brand new and shiny because it is.
You see, looking at those items left me feeling empty. I could pick up an invitation, read the words, and they were just words. They described two people who I don’t remember, maybe who I never knew. The people in that picture, and the people that are named in news stories and a minister’s words of love just don’t exist anymore.
I stopped for a few moments, then decided to put all these items back in the plastic container. I don’t keep this box for myself anymore. I keep if for my children should they ever want to look back on some of the things that tell the story of my life. Of course, so much is missing from that plastic tub. So many everyday thoughts and words and actions that are the real and true definition of who I am. I owe them the opportunity to know that once, long ago in 1983 their parents had plans and dreams and love. I also have to ask them to understand that sometimes all the planning and all the dreams and even the love, changes.