25 years ago today

“I can’t go back to yesterday—because I was a different person then.” ~Lewis Carroll

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. Obviously, I am no longer married to him (and haven’t been for twenty of the those twenty-five years), but I still notice the date every year just the same. Enough years have passed now that I no longer miss him or the relationship we had, but I do still feel on this day every year that tinge of sadness that comes from death of my childhood dream of having one lifelong love.

It’s funny now thinking back on that day so long ago, when I was still really as much a child as an adult. There are moments of that day that I still remember as clear as if they happened yesterday—the frantic scramble to find the missing bouquet at the last moment, the family tensions that threatened to erupt all day (we held two separate receptions on the same day to accommodate warring factions who not attend the same one), the new uncle-in-law that had been in Hell’s Angels and looked like a member of ZZ Top who pulled me aside to tell me the whole family was counting on me to have a boy because my new husband was the last one to carry their last name, the challenge of arranging family photos that included every possible combination of relatives who were willing to be in the same picture without offending anyone, the disaster that was my hair that day, the leaning wedding cake…and the fear.

That’s what I remember more than anything else: the fear. Woven underneath, overtop, and all throughout everything else, I remember the fear. The fear that I was making a mistake. The fear that he’d back out at the last minute (even as I waited to walk down the aisle, I could hear his grandma offering him the keys to her car to try to get him to leave me at the altar). The fear that I would be a lousy wife. The fear that family politics would explode on that day.

And yet, as clearly as I remember all of those things, it’s also as if I remember watching it happen to another person. I have changed so much in the intervening years that it’s as if I am looking back on a different person—a person that I can now view with great compassion, knowing how completely unprepared she was for all that she was about to face and being able to see from this distance that she was doing the very best she knew how even as she made so very many mistakes.

I seldom think of that relationship anymore. I’ve had no contact with him in years. But on this one day every year, I look back to remind myself of how far I’ve come, of all the courage I’ve shown over the years, of how much I’ve been willing to risk at various times in a quest to follow my heart. There is always mingled in with it that poignant sadness of a dream lost—a poignancy that is stronger this year for it being a “big” anniversary year and for having just found out (from Facebook of all places) that my second husband is now living with his new flame and planning to move with her out-of-state. I rejoice that he has found such happiness, but it does spark a pang of feeling so easily replaced.

Looking back at who I was and what I dreamed of 25 years ago today, it’s amazing to me how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed. The life I am living today is not something I would ever have conceived of back then, and yet it is a greater fulfillment of the person I really am than anything I had imagined at that point in time. I wonder if in another 25 years, I’ll look back at who I am now with a similar kind of amazement at just how much I will have changed and headed in directions unthought of today.

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