ma noce

I’ll never forget that red light.  

I sat next to my maid of honor in my teal Ford Escort, laughing about the Teeny Beanie Baby in the McDonald’s Happy Meal.  There was really nothing too funny about that little ladybug filled with tiny plastic “beans”.  In my head, I felt the eyes of all the passengers and drivers sitting in the lanes around us, peeping into the windows at the young bride driving down the road in her veil, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  “What a sight I must be.”

Much of that night is lost to me forever, wrapped up a blur of faces, emotions and a lovely, antique white French bustle.  Only a handful of moments from that day have stained my mind like spilled red wine.

(null)

July 1, 2000 — my père et moi


Walking arm-in-arm with my Daddy. Popping up onto my toes for our first kiss as man and wife. Standing alone with my groom, after it was all said and done, and feeling — for just an instant — like we’d just met again for the first time. First dances, hugs from favorite relatives, a stream of toasts, and smiling till my face hurt.

In the honeymoon suite, bird seed rained down as I hunted and picked for all the hidden pins, my deep brown hair spilling below my shoulders. Even in those moments, the memory of the night we’d lived was fuzzy. How was it possible that it had only been one day since the rehearsal?

Now, thirteen years later, my memories of that day have hardly changed, though our lives certainly have.  When you’re just a few weeks shy of twenty-three, it’s all so vague.  “Marriage” seems entirely abstract, despite the fact that you’ve witnessed marriages succeed, and marriages fail, all around you for your entire life.  At thirty-six though, marriage is more real than the wedding day.  Mortgages, jobs, laundry, grocery shopping, health and family.  It is the air we breathe each day, from the moment we wake to the moment we wake again.  

The wedding?  It’s all so vague, with only pictures to prove it ever really was at all.  

Mais, il m’aime encore, et je l’aime un peu plus fort.

le premier jour de gratitude

There is a picture that’s hung on the wall in my bedroom for as long as I can remember, even still today.

blessed art thou among women

I received Blessed Art Thou Among Women as a gift from my uncle about thirty years ago. I’ve often thought what an odd gift it was for an uncle to give his niece, especially one so young. It’s possible he thought of me when he saw this photo because the girl looks so much like me as a girl, but I’ll never know for sure.

For years, I’ve stared at her face and wondered what she saw. I’ve looked at her mother’s hand on her shoulder and her turned cheek, wishing I could just hear the words she whispers. I’ve never stopped wondering about these two. Never.

Forever, visitors have said the same thing, “Is this you? Is this your mother?”

“No,” I reply, “it’s just a picture of a girl.”

Today, it dawned on me. Is it possible that he gave me this because he knew he would die? Could it be that he gave me this everlasting memento, knowing I would never know for sure why? After all, in my unknowing, I’ve never stopped wondering. And my wondering will never let me forget. Because of this photo, my blurry, patched-up memories of him are anchored in my life. They are nailed to my wall.

Right or wrong, today it made a little more sense to me.  And for that, I am grateful. For this photo, I am grateful. For my memories, I am grateful.

Just as I looked into the giant, glowing sunrise this morning and felt energy swell in my chest, just as I filled my ears with the music of my daughters’ songs and felt my daily cup of joy brewing, I will look into this girl’s eyes and feel my heart warm with memories of an uncle long passed.  An uncle I barely knew and never understood, but one whose love still swims in the air around me tonight.

Merci, mon oncle.

à la prochaine

l’apéritif

At a writing training today, I scratched out this little scene as a response to A Quiet Place, by Douglas Wood.  The exercise led me to discover two things.  First, I miss sharing the writing with people….people other than 4th graders, that is.  (Who, by the way, are great for any writer’s ego.)  Second, “sharing” my writing is MUCH easier on my nerves when done virtually through a blog, rather than read aloud to a room of your peers.  That’s much harder than it sounds!  (A good lesson for this teacher to remember.)

I’ll have to push myself to write to publish more frequently soon, rather than only writing for myself.  Relight the fire.

* * * * * * * * * *

When I was younger, I used to bury myself in the depths of my hanging clothes and between my stacks of shoes.  I’d shut out the world with a “click”, and feel the silence fall from between the hangers and hug my ears like muffs.  I might cry, or write beneath the light of a 60-watt bulb, or lay on my back and find images in the popcorn ceiling, hiding my legs beneath the cool of long dresses.  Some days, I would open my eyes to find red creases and itchy carpet marks on my cheeks, drool puddles on the top of my hand.  I’d hear my mother softly open my bedroom door.  “Jenny?”  She’d ask my empty room where I was.  Maybe I’d sit still, frozen like a rabbit in a bush, fearing my discovery.   Maybe I’d emerge, with a shy smile and blurry eyes.  Whichever I decided, I knew I’d return one day, for one reason or another, to my quiet place.

DSC_0038

 

À la prochaine, chère écrivain