We have a giant attic where we live now. One half is carpeted and cozy. Give a hard shove to a wooden door that sticks and you’ll see the other half, with exposed beams and loose floor slats and filled with tubs of memories and stages of our twelve plus years together. I avoided those storage tubs for years. They were filled with some of the things we kept of our son, Noah, after he died. His “I MARCH TO THE BEAT OF MY OWN DRUM” t-shirt with an alligator on a skateboard. His brown sweater that he’s wearing in my favorite picture of him and my husband, Hal. The big wool throw blanket imprinted with that same picture that I gave Hal for Father’s Day. That’s a tough one. We still haven’t taken it out of the storage tub. Noah used to love to lay on that and laugh and say “Daddy”.
I was looking for the winter decorations box in the attic yesterday. I realized I never even put out the Fall decorations this year when I came upon that box filled with all things Autumn. I got very sad about the passing of another season without celebrating it with my burlap decorative pumpkins, the scarecrows, the garland of orange and red leaves. Damn it. I missed Fall.
I pulled out some lights, some greenery, some snowflakes, some little ceramic figures to hang on the wreath at the door. And then I found a bag filled with our wedding favors. You know those little wooden toys we’d get as kids? You press the bottom and the dog or cat puppet-like figure would bend and sway and jerk around. Sometimes they’d collapse at the knees or drop down on all four paws. The Bride & Groom toy I found in a catalog were about to bend in every direction.
Marriage is a funny thing. Or more simply, as my friend Kate recently texted to me, #marriageisweird. You are bound together. But you are still separate. You love each other. You would do anything for each other. You annoy the shit out of each other. You wish the other would just go away for a little while. But not too long. Because it doesn’t feel the same when they’re not there. And then they come back. And you’re happy. And then annoyed again.
My husband and I suffered one of the most devastating events a marriage can endure. The loss of a child. We know the statistics. In fact, in my hysteria the same day our son died, I remember actually saying “Couples don’t stay together after a child dies! My husband is going away too! It’s all over!”
But even for couples not living in the shadow of their worst nightmare, #marriageisweird. I pulled a few of these little wooden toys out of the storage tub, still with our names and wedding date tags on them. I remember handwriting them and tying the little blue ribbons on in the living room of our apartment from five apartments ago. I figured our four year old daughter would like playing with them. I also thought maybe a visual and tangible reminder of our actual wedding day, aside from the photos on the wall, may reduce some of the weirdness lately. When we’re both too busy. And nerves are on edge.
I found myself playing with this toy while I watched the coffee drip into the pot this morning. It’s never fast enough these days. I pressed the bottom with my thumb and laughed as the bride smacked the groom in the face. Then I pressed again and watched the groom bend backwards while the bride threw an arm stiffly up in the air. I kept pressing the bottom to see what jerky movements this young couple would do. They came up with every possible combination. They were glued to this base that kept forcing movements and punches and they just kept popping back up.
It was the nature of the toy. It’s how it was designed. What a perfect toy to represent our marriage. We are glued to this base. We will just keep popping back up. Bending but never breaking.