I have divorced parents. As a child, I loved to gaze at my parents’ wedding picture. It wasn’t the typical photo of them standing at the front of the church, although that image existed. The enlarged picture in the frame was a close-up of my mom and dad’s faces. I think it was taken in their getaway car following the matrimonial festivities. To me, it looked like the image of a prince and princess at the end of a movie— like the beginning of “Happily Ever After”.
Before my parents separated, the frame hung over their bed. After my dad moved out, it went into hiding and I didn’t see it for years. However, that didn’t stop me from sneaking peeks at the other wedding pictures, which were rolled up in a paper bag and buried under a mound of random family snapshots. I’d look at them every year or two, sometimes by myself and often with my mom and sister as we relived old memories.
I’d smile when I saw my family members looking much younger than I knew them to be. I liked to study the older fashion trends and imagine the songs people were dancing to at the reception. But most of all, I liked seeing where my branch of the Family Tree began. I felt a deep connection to the contents of that tattered paper bag.
Several years after the divorce, my sister and I bought a photo album to house those images. We even put my parents’ names and wedding date on the cover. When we proudly presented the somewhat bizarre gift to my mom, we all had a good laugh. Unfortunately, the pictures never made it into the album.
Last year, I was surprised to discover the original framed wedding photo in my mom and stepfather’s house. “You can have that,” Mom told me.
I was overjoyed. I took it home and hung it in my office, on the wall beside my desk. It is the biggest and most beautiful picture in my home.
I’m now 18 years older than my mother was on her wedding day. These days, when I look at the photo, I see something much different than the illusion embraced by my immature eyes. Instead of fictitious royalty, I see children. Their young faces blissfully aglow with blind love. I see happiness and hope, yet I also see fear and uncertainty.
I often think about that image and the years that followed the snap of the shutter. I think about the good times and the bad times… the homes, the children, the pets and the vehicles my mom and dad shared. I think about the arguments that spawned their separation and the transitions we made as a family. And then I think about how lucky I am.
I’m proud of those kids in the picture for taking the risk that marriage is. I’m proud of my mom and dad for working so hard to build a life together, and I’m proud of them for making the tough decision to separate when it was necessary to do so.
Decades after their divorce, I still treasure my parents’ marriage. I’m grateful for the example they set and the lessons I learned.