Why is it that photo albums are so deceptive? Not as in “the camera adds 10 pounds” , although that truth is bad enough.
I mean the images of life. In our wedding albums we look younger, but not “too young”. The reception was at the local “yacht club”. Great place- a big old rustic barn-like building. Massive room with open wooden rafters, old piano that the kids would bang on until we couldn’t take the noise. Wrap around porch and steps leading down to the pier. The pier was unadorned by fencing, safety gaits or concerned adults. There was a bar at one end that was always filled with people who met there regularly; chatting, smoking and watching the games on TV.
In the wedding album it’s a beautiful day, we’re wearing fancy clothes in a relaxed place. Wedding gown and Raybans. Happy couples dancing on the porch. Lobster clambake and pretty tables set in a ramshackle old barn by the sea. It looks like the kind of life I’d wish to have.
There are never any photo albums of Divorce. Many happy photos, over the years of marriage. It’s deceptive. So many happy moments are caught on film (well, that was then. Now its digital). The chronicle of various births, christenings, ballet recitals, school milestones and vacations.The ones I love the most are not those. They are the photos of the baby being fed spaghetti by his adoring sister (before he had any teeth). Pictures of the girls when they’d decorated each other (head to toe) with colored markers. The sandy bodies. The toothless grins.
These photos only represent half the real picture. There aren’t any that catalogue the arguments. The frustration, disappointments. Hurtful words. Angry stares. The tension that goes on for days, weeks, months until it becomes the tone of the household.
Then…it’s over. Finito. Ended. People offer condolences. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”. Am I okay??? How do I tell them that I’m fine? That it’s a relief not seeing the car in the drive when I pull in from work. That it’s easier to shoulder the burden yourself than to risk counting on someone else? That the tension is gone (almost). Should I be sadder? Afraid? Ashamed?
Then I find the photo albums. As I look at the photos of happy times, the sadness suddenly hits. It’s a bittersweet sadness. The family in the album looks so happy. Was that ever really us? There is sadness for what could have been, more than what was. I’m sad for Grumpy, aware that my response took him by surprise. His actions brought it on, but, he’ll have some lonely days. He’s not the only guilty party. I could have stopped this thing- we’ve teetered many times before. Why now? Why not just placate him again?
Somehow, it’s just time to let it happen. To let him go. He gave me an ultimatum of sorts, and instead of doing xyz to prove I still could…I declined. I’m not regretting the decision. I’m sad for what was lost, but the photo album isnt fooling me today. If the albums were true to life, they’d show all the past. The good days, and the bad. Like our old minivan. I cleaned it out one day, discovering “roadtrip cd’s” from days past, trinkets that were treasure are now trash under the seat. The carpet in the 3rd row is a swirl of pale yellow and robins egg blue from the paint that tipped over (thanks Home Depot paint man). The scrapes and scratches are a testament to teenage drivers. There’s also a big dent in the fender from the woman who lost her equilibrium and drove into me one day. She seemed not right- I urged her to see a doctor. She later had a non-malignant tumor removed from her brain. I’ve kept the dent as a reminder to me. LIfe is precious. Cars are not.
So we’re moving on. The albums will be put away for now. I’m sure later we’ll need to divide them, make duplicates of photos so 2 homes can commemorate the (partially depicted) good old days. Instead of living in the past, it’s time I live in the present. The future will sort itself out.
I love the family, each and every one, from those pictures. To Sue, Jen, Paula, Alan, Hylton and all the other in-laws who will be out-laws, I will always identify you as family. You are kin to my kin, and bonds stronger than laws still apply.