"Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. "It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition."
---Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health
We attended a really lovely wedding this weekend, that of our cousin and his fiance, now husband. The ceremony was so nice, made sweeter by the fact that these two amazing guys are now OFFICIALLY and LEGALLY as married as I am. That's pretty wonderful. Bambina had a great time, although trying to get her to understand that we don't get to go watch the string quartet play up front during the wedding was a bit hard. Not to mention her desperate need to go to the potty just as the wedding party was heading down the aisle (which was the only path to said potty). Not to mention, on the way back from the potty, that she noticed a guest with red (not ginger, like "redhead," but actual red-red dyed hair) and decided to yell out, "Dada! Look at the man with the red...!" before I got my hand over her mouth. Oh yes, good times. But she did as well as she could for her age. I, at my advanced age, am still recovering. As always, Bambina seemed ambivalent during the event itself, but today could not stop talking about it. We even had to make a chuppah (wedding canopy) out of tin foil, tape it up across the living room, and stand under it while she officiated at the wedding of her two sheep, Baa and Orange, both of whom are "girl sheep." Then she had me and the BBDD get under it and "say love things to each other" while she officiated again. She thinks more weddings should happen. I say they should too. And I'll be sure to tell her all about them when I get back from attending them sans fille. ;)
We started the morning putting my old memorabilia in the attic. I'm a total packrat of the worst kind: sentimental. So every note my BFF Amanda and I wrote in 6th grade was stuffed in a shoe box. Every report card was jammed in an envelope. Every photo of me and my pals in 4th grade was shoved in whatever space I could find. Every fire marshal of every town in which I've lived has wanted to shut my home down with all deliberate speed.
As I was going through all my stuff (some would say "all my crap"), I finally asked myself what I was saving this stuff for. So I started giving it all to Bambina for her dress up and play time. Like, do I need to maintain the sanctity of my 5th grade spelling bee medal? Really? Or my Scottish Brownie uniform? What did I save these nothings for if not for my kid to enjoy? So someone can trot out my 3rd grade creative writing essay at my funeral and say, "Wow... this kid wrote well for a 9 year old"? Who cares?!! It finally occurred to me that I was saving them for This Day and for This Girl. So Bambina is now completely stoked to have a whole slew of new outfits, gadgets and thingamabobs, and my crawl space is one box lighter.
And speaking of lighter, so is my heart. When my Dad died, I got his watch. Not a fancy watch, not an expensive watch. Just a big, blue JP-style watch that I can still picture on his wrist every day. Sure, I got other things of his, like letters and papers (see "packrat" above), which are the really valuable stuff. But the one tangible "thingy" thing I got of his was his watch. I wore it every day after he died. Until one day during our last days in DC I must have taken it off. And somewhere between DC and Boston it went missing. Long-time sufferers (I mean, readers) will recall that our car was broken into the morning we were leaving DC to get here for my transplant. I assumed when I couldn't locate the watch that I had, in my fatigue, packed it in the stolen suitcase. All last year I searched everywhere for the watch but finally had to come to accept that it was gone. Accept it I did, but with a great deal of regret. I told myself that people are not things, that not having his watch is as meaningless as not having his toothbrush. That I don't need his watch to still have him with me. That it was just a watch for god's sake, and my Dad more than anyone would have told me to get over it since he got it at the HEB in San Antonio anyway, and what the hell value is a supermarket aisle watch?!
Well, today we finally cleared our remaining stuff from DC out of "family storage" at Gram and Pop's house. I was not super-psyched to go through our boxes, knowing that our amazing friends had all come together and packed them for us in one day. ONE DAY, y'all. And you know who you are, my lovelies. Which is to say that the BBDD essentially told people to empty drawers and shelves into boxes with extreme prejudice. So I knew I had a task ahead of me, but wanted to clear the clutter before trash day on Tuesday. I think, in all honesty, I felt some trepidation going through stuff from that time because I just remember it all feeling so dark and scary and rushed and insane, so seeing things that were on my kitchen counter the day I left my house for the last time post-haste, in a mask, with no immune system, no bone marrow, and a then-uncertain future just takes me back to times I don't want to relive, even in reverse. But I figured it was time to just rip that scab off and git 'er done.
So I jumped in, filing, trashing, cleaning, assessing all of the random things in each box. I was at the very bottom of the last huge box when I saw it: A very large blue watch sitting in a little bowl I kept on my kitchen counter, no doubt sitting in the very same location in which I left it before washing dishes or something. And in our blurred rush to get me packed for Dana Farber, I must have left the house without it that early morning, only I assumed I had it because I always, always wore it. And being met with a smashed car window and missing property, I'm certain I didn't run back in the house to take a last look around before getting on the road to what I hoped was life.
I grabbed the watch, turned it over and over in my hands like it was the Hope Diamond, ran upstairs to where the BBDD and Bambina were playing, held it up in the air, yelled, "I found it! I found it!"...and promptly burst into tears. I emptied the rest of the box with tears dropping onto the remaining contents. I laughed. I smiled. I think I cried for about half an hour on and off, because every time I'd pull myself together with a "this is so cool," I'd set myself off again with a similar but different, "this is so cool."
Because it's true: people really aren't the things they leave behind. They are no less still with you whether or not you have that wagon wheel coffee table or those singing salt and pepper shakers. But at the same time, having that one meaningful thing--just a thing though it may be--lets me hold onto the daily, mundane memories of life with my Dad: the guy with the priceless, irreplaceable plastic watch from Aisle 6.