What You Find in the Basement

As we pack up to move to a new house, it’s amazing what I saved for no apparent reason.

Crib bumpers and mobiles. Old dishes. A coffeemaker bought in 2000, never used, now dusty on the basement shelf. Nine scrapbooks intended for all of my grandmother’s loose photographs and letters, still empty, the future contents in a box of its own.

And the portrait from my first wedding.

It was a beautiful portrait, of a happy couple, on a day when we believed everything was possible for us, a huge long future of joy and companionship and partnership. Of course we didn’t know we would not succeed in marriage.

I looked at that portrait and wondered what to do with it. I certainly have no use for it now, nor would my ex. We are so far away from that smiling, shining August 14 years ago.

But it inaugurated a whole family, including three children who are so special and so loved – shouldn’t they have a chance to remember their parents as happy, even if it’s only from photographs?

On garbage day last week, that framed portrait faced the street, awaiting pickup. All the neighbors drove past our smiling faces, my white handmade dress, his vest and bow tie made from the bridesmaids’ fabric. They all know us both, and there we were heading to the dump.

I just couldn’t keep it. But I did choose to keep our wedding albums, and I have the wedding proofs in a box, waiting for my ex to take a look and see if he wants them.

Even if we didn’t end up happily ever after together, our wedding was a joyous occasion, involving family and friends so dear to us. Some are no longer with us, and those pictures are last festive memories. Plus, they are a record of what led to the creation of our children.

Certainly worth keeping.

In the heat of a failing relationship, it’s easy to forget the happy times. It’s easy to pretend we never liked each other, never loved each other.

But that would be lying.

You marry someone because you believe in the possibility of love between you. You believe in the growth that will come, the deepening of your connection. You believe with all your heart that happily ever after will come true for you.

And even if it doesn’t, it’s a disservice to you both not to remember the times when you came so close, you almost made it.

I couldn’t bring myself to toss the chalk portrait of us that the photographer made. It is so beautiful, such a work of art. Perhaps my ex will want it. I also saved the artistic ketubah his former brother-in-law made for us – so full of meaning, so creative, so incredibly special.

I’ll give them to him to cherish.

Because any love, even a fleeting love, even a love that doesn’t last, is valuable. It reminds us we are alive. And when that love can turn into hate or anger or frustration or bickering, as happens often with ex-spouses forced to interact on behalf of their children, we must remember that they are opposite emotions – without love, we can’t have anger; without happiness, we can’t have sadness.

In the spirit of a new year and a new house, I looked upon these findings with the love and compassion that I truly hold in my heart for the years I had with my ex and the family we created.

Because that’s the honest truth.

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