Last Sunday I went to my exercise class and then started grocery shopping. Mid-Trader Joes aisle, I suddenly thought I might start to cry. And not because the store was playing a Smiths song, which is my usual Trader Joes trigger. I held back my tears by impulse buying four bunches of flowers–my wife knows when I bring home multiple bouquets, I have the blues, and if I bring home an entire plant, well, it’s really serious.
By the time I’d gotten home, filled the fridge with fresh ingredients and taken a shower while drinking a can of La Croix (Pamplemousse, obviously), I felt more stable. But I still wondered what the hell had come over me.
The answer: feelings. I finally had the time and mental space to process feelings, which hasn’t been the case for at least six months thanks to the non-stop pace that wedding planning, working, living life and taking writing classes required of me. But instead of individual emotions coming to the surface one at a time, the floodgates opened and I had all the feels at once.
I explained this to my therapist this week and she called the post-milestone mode I’m currently in Reverberation Time. “It’s all bouncing around within you,” she said. That feels like an apt description, but I’m not exactly enjoying myself.
“Why am I feeling ALL the feelings,” I whined to my poor wife, “when I want to feel none of them?!”
Every day since then, I’ve felt a little more sorted. With my therapist, we talked through some of what I might be feeling. Like how right after the wedding, there was so much relief in having it be over, most of what I was processing was that my worst fears had not been realized. We didn’t run out of anything important, no family member made a drunken scene, and a tree did not crash through the roof (AKA my top 3 fears).
But after what hadn’t happened sunk in, I started to think of things I’d wished would have happened. Small things, like my mother having a tender moment with me that was just about me. Or really savoring the hug my dad and I had at the end of the aisle, which instead is a bit of a blur. Take Two may have been a theme of the wedding, but there wasn’t to be a second chance for these things.
Or was there?
On Tuesday, our photographers emailed to say our photos were ready and when I clicked the link in their message, up popped hundreds of images of not just our wedding day, but also luscious desert shots of our group honeymoon in Palm Springs which the photographers (who are also friends) had joined us on.
A week ago in the middle of the night, I woke up with a start. We’d asked our florists to make special arrangements that featured Birds of Paradise, a flower my wife’s family uses to signify her father who died a decade ago. At 3AM, I realized I hadn’t looked closely at the finished arrangements. I didn’t have a memory of them.
But there they were in our beautifully-shot photos. I took my time to look at every detail. All the flowers. And all the table settings, which represented many months of work gathering and making this and that.
Better yet were all the photos of our guests. The photographers grouped them into categories: ceremony, candids, formals, reception, party. And each gallery was more fun to go through than the last. Looking at the ceremony photos, I realized friends and family had ended up sitting together in combinations that surprised and delighted me. There’s my butch lesbian pal sitting next to my 84-year old Republican grandfather. There’s an aunt from my hometown next to a former colleague who lives in Philadelphia. There’s my wife’s childhood friend next to mine from college.
There’s a photo of my uncle talking to our mutual cousin, and a second shot of her doubled over laughing at whatever he’d just said.
There are pictures of people playing the Giant Jenga set that me, my wife and two of our friends worked through a long, hot afternoon to create.
There’s a photo of my wife and her mother walking down the aisle, which I hadn’t seen in person because they went before me. I took my time with that one. My wife only lived with her mother until she was five years old. This image carried an incredible lesson about love and forgiveness that isn’t quite over. At our rehearsal dinner, I put together a timeline of photos of my wife and I at roughly the same ages. We didn’t have a single one of she and her mother, but now we do.
There’s a photo of me and my dad hugging at the end of the aisle. A frozen moment that I can savor forever.
There’s a photo of me and my maternal first cousins with our grandfather. For many years of my relationship with my wife, I doubted whether she would ever even meet my conservative grandfather. But in the past year, they’ve met several times and had long conversations bonding over movies and travel. He gave an impromptu toast at our rehearsal dinner welcoming my wife to the family, saying his grandchildren who were already married had hit it out of the park with their choices of spouse and I had too.
There are so many photos of my wife looking gorgeous (and uncharacteristically teary-eyed) and many of me throwing back my head with laughter.
I don’t believe a picture is worth a thousand words, but I also don’t know how I could ever calculate the worth of these photos. I shared them with my brother and that night he called me. “I know it’s late, but I had to say that those photos are amazing. Just think, you’ll have them for the rest of your lives together and they’re perfect.”
Yeah. Just think.
(our photographers are the Vienna-based Belle & Sass and their talent is astounding)