Friday, August 19, 2005
The Wedding Photo
There is still a lot of chaff and bits of things left at the farm--some piles of old books, some chairs and lawn furniture we have yet to bring home, some odds and ends in the barn.
One thing we found on a recent visit was a framed photograph of my parents' wedding in July 1961 at All Saints' Church in nearby Peterborough, New Hampshire. It was dusty and had been tossed aside and lying on the floor of the upstairs barn loft. Perhaps it was a harmless mistake but it was the only remnant like this up there, a cast off, it seemed, the gesture of throwing away a past, a marriage.
My father and I were always very close. I don't exactly know the details of my parents' separation and divorce--only its impact on me as a child, a teenager, and as an adult. I have heard and surmised various things. But I always remained loyal to both parents while feeling a particular empathy, if not outright kinship, with my father. He was the one who was left behind--my mother had to ask his permission to move with us to New Hampshire (he was an Akron resident his entire life). There is a line in the movie ELIZABETH when Elizabeth the 1st says, "I am my father's daughter." I know exactly what she meant by that: I inherited my father's warped sense of humor, his penchant for melancholy, his love of music, and his body type.
To find this forlorn photograph, a tossed away remnant, like a relic from the Titanic that had survived all of these years or something a tornado had blown into the barn, was as perplexing a thing as much as it was upsetting. I have the original slide from which the print was made so replicating it isn't a problem--it is the finding of it that bothered me. Of all of the items at the farm we went through together, that other people pawed over and moved in the course of several weeks, it is as if that was left behind in the dust on purpose.
So we picked it up, dusted it off as best we could and brought it home with us. What else could we do? I couldn't very well leave my parents on the floor even though they had been divorced almost thirty years before my father died in 2002, even though the wedding itself took place more than 40 years ago. It is still a memory--not a memory of mine but a family memory, and worthy, despite the subsequent fallout of a marriage, of much better treatment than to be left in the empty, lonely space of an old barn.
To see a photograph of my parents sharing their vows, long before the conflicts and discord created by events of the past four years and almost three years after losing my father, just shook me to the core. Finding it in that state was symbolic of so many things and I should probably get this blog off my chest and be done with it--I realize I may be overeacting to such blatant symbolism. I have only hit a temporary low point in processing the "whole farm thing" but the photo has been speaking to me, as if to defend its presence: "I am here!" "I happened!" "I matter!" We all need to make such declarations from time to time--whether for ourselves, a philosophy or a discarded photo of a long ago event. These "bits and threads of our very lives" that Katherine Mansfield wrote about are always around us--some tangible, some less so. "This farm has many ghosts," my mother said. And so it does.