August 8, 2011
Today is not my wedding anniversary but 7 years ago today was my wedding day.
I’m at a college in Northampton, Massachusetts – a town I might try to live someday when my son is school age. I am taking a class that a coworker had signed up for but couldn’t attend due to being on bed rest for her pregnancy. I didn’t want to come today. Other things seemed more important (deciding to change daycare centers; needing to contact both centers; needing to go in to work to start setting up my classroom; wanting to spend a day reading and sitting outside). But I said I would do this when my coworker couldn’t, and my district paid for it – so I’m here.
So, on the day that I didn’t want to cross paths with the man I married, I did. He arrived at 7:45am to pick up our son so that I could go to the class. We decided not to send him to daycare for the day since I needed to communicate our feelings of unhappiness to the current daycare director and wait for a response.
I didn’t want to look at him when he arrived.
Seven years ago today, I could not wait to see him, look at him, and kiss him as we were told we were husband and wife.
Two years ago today, I started feeling nauseous every time I looked at him, especially after he used the same date as our wedding to confess to cheating on me.
Today, I did not know how I would feel when I opened the door to exchange childcare information and watch as he left with our son on a day that used to represent our wedding.
Luckily (and sadly), I felt mostly nothing. Maybe some remnants of a long ago feeling for a person who died (but is still living and looking like the same person, but is not).
I keep thinking of these moments as I arrive on a nice college campus in a nice town that looks picture-worthy at this time in the morning. Everything is “nice” and there doesn’t seem to be anything ugly or uninviting about this town – at least this part of it; the parts you can see on the surface from a busy street. The location of my class is in the campus center in, again, a nice bright building that is modern with a lot of windows and a great cafeteria with a lot of options for snacks and lunch (always important when taking a class).
At lunch, sitting outside on a bench with a grilled cheese and iced tea, I remember that I am not unfamiliar with being on a college campus and feeling a relaxing, peaceful distance from everything else in life. Being in a class and in learning mode hoping that what I learn will be enough to take one more step towards wherever I am supposed to be.
Luckily I have started enjoying the process and the path rather than thinking where I am now is supposed to lead somewhere better. I don’t really feel that way anymore. Where I am is a good place. An amazing beautiful little boy in my life who is part of my world in a way that nothing or no one else has been. A job where I am entrusted to help children learn — something I always hoped I’d find during college in my 20s.
A smoker interrupts my peaceful moment.
I am at this place today, with opportunities for learning in a career field that I wanted very badly to be but wasn’t yet settled into during the time when getting married. Because I remember that about myself, about where I used to be, I am interested in learning whatever is offered by this class. I am lucky to be able to say that what I am learning to day is an addition to what I already know and have learned so far.
Unlike my official college days over fifteen years ago, when I looked around a college campus and felt as if I was missing something or missing out on something, today I’m not searching for anything or needing to do anything but sit here an eat a grilled cheese while on a lunch break. There will be things from this class that I can use in both my parenting life and my teaching life. Learning about how my son is and will develop his language makes it especially worth being here.
I’m not using this peaceful time on a bench to dwell on remembering my wedding or the confessions of cheating five years later on the same day. I’m not feeling stuck and I’m not feeling upset. For a minute or two, I see myself seven years ago in my ivory gown in a park and five years ago crying in pajamas in a chair. Those two memories of myself are here with me today. But, almost as if they are quietly passing through my thoughts, rather than causing pounding headaches and forcing me to retreat to the couch to try to tune out the day.
This campus is too peaceful for that. It’s too nice of a day for that (a mix of sun, light rain, and clouds). There are groups of teachers from the class who are hanging out and talking as I sit here by myself on a bench, and I am happy about that for today. For this day, I don’t care that I’m not with a group. I’m not really feeling like making small talk . I just feel like sitting outside during this lunch break and taking in the quiet day in this new place. I have always loved taking classes and I usually look forward to meeting new people but today, I’m excited to have a few minutes alone on this bench and I just feel like being quiet.
When I look at my phone, I realize that at almost this exact moment seven years ago, I was walking down the aisle. I think back to this morning as I was sitting on the couch with my son, his head on my shoulder as we watched Sesame – and I don’t remember feeling like anything was missing in that moment.
What I think about is that I had a wedding day on this day, but it’s not my anniversary today. It’s a day of learning something new and seeing where that takes me next.
After the class, during the few minute walk to the parking garage, I turned a corner and realized — this is the same town where my wedding was. I’m minutes away from the park. How could I have forgotten? I walked and looked around, and saw my pink flip flops taking me forward towards the campus garage where I parked. I look down at myself and at the environment around me, and feel like I am entirely the same, but very different – and I have no idea how that’s possible.
I walked into the garage, climbed one flight of steps, unlocked and got into my car. I looked out the open space of the garage windows in front of me, and there it was – rain.