Whoo, BOY, did I get sidetracked yesterday. I’m packing (and packing and packing and packing). I’m trying to be smart about it, cleaning out and culling as I go, boxing things in groups that will be used immediately/used eventually/used never but saved for posterity.
So what the hell do I do with all of The Ex’s old love letters?
Quite awhile ago, a reader emailed and asked me that very question. At the time, I thought it would make a great post topic, but I seriously back-burnered it. It was not at all a pressing issue–those notes and letters and mementos stayed where they had always stayed, in a box in my bedside table drawer. I felt no need to acknowledge them and no need to purge them. They were there, in a box and out of the way.
But now they are IN the way. As is the wedding photo album. As are the wedding videos. As is my preserved wedding dress. As is the framed hand-drawn ink sketch of the hale in Hawaii where we spent our honeymoon. As are the Valentine’s cards and the periodic professions of undying love and devotion and the couple-y photographs that I removed from frames and shoved deep inside other drawers when The Ex moved out.
I feel I should save these things—at least some of them. As a teenager, I loved rooting through my mom’s keepsakes and finding those glimpses into who my parents used to me. I suspect Avery and Amelia (and possibly even Owen) will be the same. I want them to be able to see us as we were, when we loved, before it all got so royally screwed up. I want them to know why they were wanted, what we planned, and that we really had the best of intentions when we brought them into this world.
Avery told me the other night that when she looks at photographs of our wedding, she thinks Daddy has a really weird look in his eye—like he doesn’t want to be there, like he doesn’t mean it. She is wrong, but I understand why she feels that way. Her view of us in those photos is colored by her sense of the way our relationship is today. She sees us now and can’t understand how it was then. She projects backwards in time and rewrites a history that existed years before she was even born. Some day I’d like her to understand that we loved. Very much. For a really long time, we had a really good relationship and then a really good marriage. It turned into a really bad one at the end, but I don’t think I want her to believe that the end invalidates the beginning (to be fair, I’m not sure what I think of that, but I don’t want her to be as jaded as her mama).
It’s a double-edged sword and I’m not sure which blade is worse for a young girl looking ahead toward love and marriage and life. Is it better to believe it never existed, so that she can think her own love, when it comes, is strong and true and different than all those who have failed before her? Or is it better to know that it once existed, true and strong and real, but that it completely disappeared anyway, seemingly overnight?
I want to save these memories for our children, but I think I may want to save some of them for me, too. Because if I don’t, I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember that girl, or why she loved that boy, or just how spectacularly good it was, long ago before it became so, so bad.
I want to save them, but I don’t need them right now. So there’s my marriage up there in that photo—all crammed into two boxes that will be stored on the highest shelf in the least-used closet. Contained within are the results of the adult years of my life so far … the memories, the love, the promises and the proof that there was a WE once. It’s all there, in those two boxes. And of course, here in this: