Nora always gets confused when she sees it. She thinks she was at “our” wedding. I admit, when I see it out of the corner of my eye in passing, I think of it as our “family wedding photo” too. It’s the closest thing to something like that we’ll ever have. And, for half a moment, I’m tempted to feel sad about that. A lifetime of social conditioning has programmed me into thinking I should be the one wearing a white dress and that my “illegitimate” child shouldn’t be there with me.
When I explain to Nora that it’s a photo of her aunt’s wedding, she wants to know where the photos of my wedding are. Since she’s already been brainwashed by Disney, it’s hard for me to explain. But I’m going to try to explain it to her here now, and maybe it’ll help her understand later.
Dear Nora – I love your dad more than I’ve ever loved anyone other than you. He’s the one who loved me when I was poor and broke and alone, struggling to make it at my first job as a reporter in a new city. When all the other men played games and were too chicken to show how much they cared, your dad wouldn’t give up on winning my affections. He cooked for me, drove me around when my car was broken down, lent me money when I was penniless, and forced me to get out of my apartment and made me laugh when I was feeling depressed. He was patient and persistent and overtime he became my best friend.
When I got pregnant, we were both terrified, but your dad was there supporting me every step of the way. He immediately started looking for a better job and a house for us to raise you in. People wanted to know when we were going to get married, but a white dress, diamond rings and thousands of dollars down the drain for a show to impress others were the last things on our minds. We were saving up cash to pay for your home birth, your organic cotton blankets and your natural rubber teething toys.
When my employers wanted me to come back to the office, after working from home for six months, we asked aunt Katie to come live with us and be your nanny. Even though I was only gone five hours a day, I hated hearing you cry over the phone when Katie would call me and tell me you were refusing your bottle. So, eventually, I quit and Daddy got a job working long hours to pick up the slack. He slaved away for three years so I could be with you.
The fourth year of your life, Mommy and Daddy decided it was time to break free, for our sake and yours. Daddy quit his job, sold the house, bought a food truck and we moved to Asheville. We came here to find happiness and freedom and sense of community. We came here, in part, to find more people to love. We came here because it didn’t feel healthy or natural or right for it to just be you and Mommy, alone, in a 4-bedroom house in the suburbs, waiting for Daddy to get home at 2 a.m. six days a week. We came here hoping to form a tribe – a big family that would be better equipped to help us meet all our needs and live all our dreams.
We came here to live, to love and be loved. And nowhere along the road here did we find an appropriate day for a white wedding. Nowhere along the way did it feel important or necessary. And that’s ok. Because contrary to what Walt says – the dress, the rings, the cake, the flowers, the presents, the party, the dancing – it’s all just symbolic. It’s all just a metaphor for the real thing, for real life and real love – and if you have those, you don’t need wedding photos to prove it. You just skip straight to the ‘happily ever after.’