I never remembered our anniversary. The moments that made the day are, however, still vivid; my dad pounding a few shots as the girls got ready, which meant I had to drive us all to the church, across the city, in the summer heat. My veil blowing through the driver’s side window as we snaked through traffic. How he turned mischievous after the ceremony, hoisting his pant leg to show me his boots; I’d begged him to wear normal shoes and then didn’t notice the boots. How Adam kept quiet by emptying the contents of my tiny white purse and unbuttoning his tuxedo shirt, sitting in a church pew with his little Buddha belly sticking out, bowtie still intact. Hearing a friend say, “you’re beautiful” as I ducked from one room of the church to another before the ceremony
But the date of our marriage never stuck. July something or other would come and go and inevitably one or both of us would either remember or forget, seldom in tandem. We rarely celebrated. Details weren’t our thing, I suppose; we were more about broad strokes. Survival mode, I think they call it.
Every now and then I’d take the embossed album off the shelf and flip through its heavy, matted pages. I’d let my fingers linger on the pictures, thankful for the smiling faces looking back at me, hopeful they couldn’t see what I knew to be true.
Facebook reminded me this week it’s been eight years since it was final. Nine, in reality; that first year of separation was no different than the eight after a judge made it official.
Nine. One year short of the anniversary I do remember, but not because of the day. Because the day after the nondescript day before it, we struggled through the conversation. Because the day after the ordinary day before it, everything changed even though it all stayed the same. Because the day after the familiar day before it, worlds turned upside down so quickly I was suddenly right side up.
I carried the album upstairs tonight and settled into the corner of the couch. Padded envelope at my side, I began to disassemble; flip page, remove matting, un-stick photos, place in envelope. Stop. Breathe. Repeat.
I felt guilt as I stared at faces I don’t remember. I smiled at faces of friends I knew well once but haven’t kept up with through the years. I marveled how age has changed the faces of those precious few still in my life; less hair, more chins, extra padding. I close my eyes and see the twinkling lights over the dance floor, feel the bubbles those who loved us blew pop cool on my shoulders as we swayed to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version of “Grow Old Along with Me.” I remember that once upon a time I was shiny and hopeful and coupled.
One day. Ten years. One year. Eight years. And here I sit, dumbfounded at how small chunks of time combine to make a life and how each of those days and months and years sometimes feels like a lifetime within this life that formed itself while I was busy not remembering dates but paying attention to details. And here I sit, perplexed that lifetimes can be un-stuck and packaged up neatly and put away as if the tired phrase “out of sight, out of mind” might actually stitch together the still ragged pieces of my heart. And here I sit, uncoupled and older but not much wiser, but still hopeful.