When M and I divorced in 1981 I threw away my wedding album. We didn’t have children whose history it belonged to, so why would I keep it? It’s not like it was any kind of beginning, or so I thought. It was just my first false start. I thought.
I never gave it another thought until we remarried some 27 years later and then, I wished I’d saved it because it became relevant. All of a sudden. Then again, who knew?
Fortunately, teenage bestie, who was in the wedding, had saved her photo of the bridal party and was kind enough to give it to me so we had at least one 8×10 of the group.
And then, last month, I was going through boxes I hadn’t opened since probably 2001 and found the book of proofs from my wedding album. My mother had kept it and I’d taken it when we’d cleaned out my family home after her death. I’d forgotten that I’d taken it and it had remained hidden away for more than a decade. What a treasure it was! We loved going through the photos and reminiscing.
More photos and journals survived from my past than I expected, and I found them all as I sorted through the things in my old storage unit. They represent the long thread of my life and somewhere, in there, a coherent through line exists, even if I can’t see it yet. When people ask me about my life, I’m tempted to say, “got a couple hours?” And really, the only logical response is, “It’s complicated.” But maybe it’s not so much complicated as it is–unknown, in a way– and I’d like to unravel that invisible through line in that memoir I keep saying I’ll finish. I’m thinking these old mementos may help.
Starting today, I’ll do sporadic posts with photos about some of the chapters of my life. My hope is that I can make sense of it all (ha!) and then come up with some coherent spine for a memoir. Maybe some inspirational quotes for women, like “life is mysterious” or “don’t give up hope.” Or something.
And since I’ve found these photos of my husband and me–so young, so adorable and so damn innocent–I’ll start here.
Our family photographer, Mr. Cuminale, came to the house before the wedding to shoot some traditional wedding book photographs. My parents look so happy and they were. Back in that day the wedding of an eldest daughter was the culmination of every parent’s hopes and dreams. The era of big hair was waning, but my mother’s hair is still big–augmented–and she looks beautiful.
My mom had a smile that would light up a room and I’d give anything to see it again, and to hear her laugh. Her passing in 1999 at age 74 was far too soon. But here, on this day, she was thrilled to be the mother of the bride. Turns out, this was her only chance to be in that role; my sister married late, after my mother died.
Although the house sold years ago to another family, I can still see every square foot of it. Sometimes, I walk through it in my mind and it makes me cry. When I look at this photo I know exactly where I was standing and can put myself there in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe in some parallel universe, M and I are having this wedding right this minute. Because, you know, it is possible to bend time….
I’m not exactly sure what my long-haired brother-in-law is pointing at, but isn’t my young husband cute? Maybe Rich is saying “You’re late! You’re late! For a very important date!”
And don’t you love the sideburns? I look at him in this photograph and I swoon. Oh, I adored him at the time. Still do. I’m also crazy about my brother-in-law–he’s hilarious– and his being back in my life is one of the best things about M and my remarriage. It’s always a treat to get him on the phone and share some snark. When we met, Rich was 18 and I was 19, so we had a lot in common. (I met M when I was 18, my freshman year in college and his senior year.)
I was one of those kids who arrived in the world precocious and questioning. I was not an easy child for an authoritarian, Sicilian father. His smile as he walked me down the aisle reflected his relief that I was now someone else’s problem. I was certain of it! He looks so handsome in his tuxedo. In a photo from my sister’s wedding almost 30 years later, he’s also wearing a tuxedo but you can see the ravages, the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease on his face. But on this day, that was far in the future. I was only 20–what did I know of the speedy passage of time? That 40 years could pass in the blink of an eye?
Looking at this photo I can imagine it all, just as it was. My father was 53 in this photo–but looked younger. I am now 10 years older than he was then.
…St. Ambrose Church was our family parish and the wedding officiant was Father Doyle, a longtime friend of our family. I had my First Communion at St. Ambrose and my Confirmation. Some 27 years after this photograph I would stand at that altar giving my mother’s eulogy and almost a decade later, I’d be there again for my father. As I wrote those words I realized how much a part of my life this church has been, even though I no longer identify as Roman Catholic. More than ever before, I can see how a church can anchor families, even though it didn’t really do that for us. But it was where all the milestone events were held.
Of course, we look all traditional up there, but when it was time for Communion, one of my Jewish bridesmaids decided to give it a try and I practically sprained my neck trying to catch a glimpse of her.
How cute are we?
Of course, I had no idea this walk down the aisle would eventually end in a heart-breaking divorce. And that some 27 years after that, we’d remarry. I still can’t fathom it, and it happened to me. A long, strange trip.
We Sicilians do a lot of kissing. Dad always looked younger than his age, even in his last days. But this is how I like to remember him: at 53, in his prime, smiling.
Doesn’t he look happy? He still is and so am I. He still has those baby blues, too, of course. And he’s still as nice as he ever was. Nicer, even. Because, remember, I did know him in his studly senior year of college. College boys can be a little…well, they can be boys.
Yes, both our mothers were natural redheads. At least originally. In these photos M clearly resembles his mother. If you scroll up you can see how much his brother resembles their dad. But now, M’s got a more chiseled look and resembles his father. Go figure. My father-in-law died young just two years later.
I’ve come to believe I look like my father.
After the reception, a Godfather-esque event marked by two open bars, a sit-down dinner for 400 (we are all Sicilian) and a pretty big drunk-fest, we leave, a little worse for the wear. This was the start of our first married life. It would last a little over eight years, until I was 29. Chapter 1, I guess.