I want it back even though our marriage ended in divorce.
I was a disorganized mess when I got married. Everything from the wedding invitations to my white ruffled party dress and cheap low-heeled shoes was a complete disaster. I had no idea what I was doing, not just in terms of planning a wedding, but in terms of life itself.
My wedding invitations were handwritten, sloppy, and cheap. I hope they’ve all been destroyed, not just because the marriage ended less than five years later, but because they were embarrassing. A child’s birthday party has better invitations than I did.
The least I could have done was written my invitations neatly in cursive. Instead, I began by carefully printing the details on each invitation in letters that progressively became more uneven and illegible as the hours wore on. By the time I had written the final invited guest’s name and address on the last envelope, I could barely read it. The saddest part was that it was both the best I could do and the most I could afford at the time.
I even licked the stamps and envelopes myself.
The wedding ceremony and the reception were both held in my mother-in-law’s back yard. Our guests brought their own food. It was a potluck dinner. There were no seats and no tables. Everyone ate cold lasagna and warm potato salad awkwardly balancing cheap paper plates as they stood in the sun.
It was the worst party I've ever attended, and I was both the party planner and the guest of honor.
I did such a poor job planning my wedding that I didn’t even hire a photographer or videographer. The only photos I had to mark the day my husband and I recited our short-lived vows were the Polaroid instant photos my mother-in-law had the foresight to provide.
Thus my wedding album consisted of a cardboard-covered book with plastic pages, each page divided into four slots that held a single Polaroid photo apiece. They weren’t pretty, but they were all I had to commemorate that day.
As it turned out, my wedding day wasn’t the best day of my life. It was one of the worst, although the roughly 1,600 days that followed were even worse than that one. It was all downhill from day one. Don't even get me started on the honeymoon.
When we arrived home from our disastrous honeymoon, my mother-in-law presented us with the photo album filled with Polaroid instant photos of our special day. She had transformed the book itself into a thing of beauty, using fabric, lace, ribbons, and her trusty hot glue gun to create a photo album that rivaled any fancy wedding album from the most extravagant of weddings.
I only loved that wedding album for a brief moment in time before my marriage became so loathsome and unsustainable that I abandoned it on the shelf in our spare bedroom. It was still there when I moved out for good. I thought I didn’t care if I never saw it again.
Years later, I realized I was wrong. You know what they say about hindsight.
There was something about that wedding album I didn’t understand on the day I left it on the shelf and moved out of the house I shared with my husband. The memories contained within its plastic pages can never be replaced or replicated. There on those faded Polaroid pictures were the smiling faces of family members who have since passed away, and I lost my chance ever to see those images again.
His grandparents, my maternal grandmother, my sibling, my cousin, and countless others were immortalized on photos that turned out not to be so immortal after all. Even my husband, who long ago became my ex-husband, has passed away. I didn’t realize I’d ever want to see his face again until it was no longer an option.
There were no physical or digital copies, no proofs, nothing but the instant photos stuck in the clear plastic pages. I have no reasonable expectation of getting it back.
Where is my wedding album today? I have no way of knowing, but I suspect it ended up in the trash or a fire pit. If that’s the case, I don’t blame my ex-husband at all. Neither of us could ever have imagined how things would turn out. We certainly couldn’t have guessed how important that wedding album would become to me years later.
I don’t have much hope that it still exists, although I do think there’s a small chance it may have ended up in the hands of one of his close family members. Unfortunately, we have fallen out of touch, and there’s no way for me to ask.
So the only images I have of that day are the images stored in my memory, and those pictures are more ephemeral and faded than any old Polaroid picture could ever be.
Life is unpredictable.
Years have softened the blunt edges of my marriage. While I may never be at a place where I look at that time of my life with fondness, I've finally lost the bitterness. When I learned that my ex-husband had died, there didn't seem to be any reason to hold a grudge.
If only I had realized that sooner. Maybe I could have prevented a lot of sleepless nights.
Sometimes I think I miss my wedding album, and I do. But I also don't. Would there really be any benefit to looking at that hopeless teen couple who got married for all the wrong reasons? Do I need to see that confused bride with her bad perm and unwashed brassy orange hair?
It doesn't matter because it's not an option. I let my husband keep our wedding album, and now it's gone forever along with so many people whose faces graced its pages. That's the real loss.