There isn’t much I remember about the day you married Mom. I was three years old. I had thick bangs that hung level with my eyebrows and straight blonde hair streaked lighter by the sun. We lived in Virginia, in a house by the sea with big windows that let in the sunset as each day came to its end. Our driveway was made of sand, so anytime someone drove over it the tires made a crinkling noise, like a bowl full of Rice Krispies when you pour in the milk.
You got married at our house. There were a lot of people there, the normally spacious living room packed with bodies, all of them taller than me. Mom had sewn her dress herself out of a beautiful deep green fabric. I was the flower girl and wore a matching dress that she’d also made.
The only thing I remember about the ceremony is that when the two of you kissed I wasn’t expecting it. I shrieked and ran down the hall into my bedroom. It felt like something important had just happened. And it had. From that moment on, you were ours and we were yours.
I’ve seen photos of that day in the albums Mom has. As a child I loved those albums. I’d take them down off the shelf and flip through the plastic pages, examining the details in every photograph.
There are a lot of photos of you and Mom talking with people I don’t know or remember. Your mouths are open, mid-sentence, and your eyes hold the spark of the moment. What you’re feeling and responding to. In one photo, Mom is standing behind a wall with a serious look on her face. Concentrating. No one is speaking to her, but she’s alert, honed in on something I could never decipher from the photo.
I asked her about it once, and she explained that she was waiting for someone to give her the cue to enter. There was timing in these things, getting married. It all seemed so involved to me.
But now I myself am married and I understand. There is timing to these things. To finding one another.
I know the story of when you and Mom met. We all do. It’s one of our favorite stories, and Mom always told it with pride and a glint of magic in her voice. It’s a simple memory, but it had deep meaning to her, meaning we could feel in her words.
Mom was living in Virginia Beach, VA. It was just her and me then. She owned an art gallery where she sold artist’s work and provided professional framing to clients who came to see her. I learned to crawl and to walk in that gallery. There are photographs in Mom’s albums of me on the floor, about to crawl, a chevron rainbow of frame samples clinging to the wall behind me. Apparently I liked to hand the samples to customers.
Mom glanced up as you walked through the door, and she knew as soon as she saw you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one day she would marry you.
So you see, Dad, there was timing in all of it, from the beginning. What if you hadn’t stopped by the gallery that day? Would you and Mom have met another way? What if she’d said no and decided not to show your paintings in the gallery? Would you still develop a relationship with her?
But we know what happened. She did say yes, and even the presence of little me didn’t deter you.
Out of everything you and I discussed as I grew up, we never spoke of this memory. Mom’s version was always the one recited. So now I’m left wondering what you thought of the day you met her and the day you married her. All I ever remember you mentioning from the wedding day is how someone’s car broke down, and all the men went outside in their suits and ties and pushed the car out of the sandy driveway.
We have a picture of that in the album, the men all leaning down, fingers spread against the car, feet anchored into the ground. I’ve seen it when I flipped through the albums. In the photo it’s still light out, but only just. In my mind I can imagine the scene unfold as I examine all the photos one after another.
The sun is setting in the distance, streaking the sky the color of peach sherbert. The air smells briny and, faintly, of car exhaust. A crowd stands around the front door and watches as the men grunt and strain. In the midst of them are Mom and I, watching you push, knowing that you’re not leaving with them.
You’re staying with us now. You’re ours, and we’re yours.