It seemed so innocuous. A friend asked me if I had a video camera bag that I wasn’t using. I suspected I had an old one in the closet. I found it, and I took it out and emptied it so I could give it to my friend. Mostly it was batteries and lenses and blank tapes, but when I got to the last pocket, I reached in and pulled out two passes to Mickey’s Speedway. That was when the uncontrollable weeping commenced.
That camera bag has sentimental value. I was trying not to think about that, but those passes cut through my denial like an electric carving knife slicing a Thanksgiving turkey. We took two family vacations to Disney World when I was married. My children were so young; they loved the rides and the characters, and those trips were the best memories we ever made as a family. That was so long ago that no one had cell phones and everyone with kids had camcorders so we dragged this bag everywhere with us, collecting precious footage of our babies, which after the divorce would prove too painful to watch.
Those passes were to the racetrack at Disney World, from our last trip, right before the divorce, when we still thought a family vacation could save us. We had fun on that trip. If only we could have lived in Disney World, maybe we could have made it work. If we hadn’t had to come back to jobs, doctor’s appointments, bills, extended family obligations and stresses that would pit us against each other like De La Hoya vs. Mayweather.
Divorce is like that. You spend years crying and donating things to Goodwill, building a new life while trying to forget the old one, and then one day your kid asks you for batteries, so you dig around your closet, and you can’t find any batteries but you accidentally stumble on the gift that your ex-husband gave you for your first wedding anniversary. You should have thrown it away after the divorce, but you couldn’t bring yourself to, because you loved it, and when you hold that gift in your hand you remember that things were good once. You got through the divorce by lying to yourself, saying it wasn’t a loss because things were never that great between you. But then you find this gift, and you remember that moment, and you know that’s a lie. Things were good once. Once upon a time you had something special, and you loved each other – that’s why you put on that white dress and walked down that aisle and pledged your undying devotion to one other in front of everyone you knew. Now you are forced to admit that you lost that. You broke it, or the stresses of life whittled it away, and it’s gone now, and that is a huge loss. Now you feel the pain of that loss that you’ve been trying to numb for so long.
Oh, that’s right. Somebody used to love me. You’d almost forgotten what that was like – to be adored and courted. That was nice, and you don’t have it anymore, and you wonder if you ever will again. Would you let someone love you if they tried? Are you capable of taking that risk again?
You abandon your search for batteries, slump down onto the floor and cry while you hold that pretty gift in your hand and debate about whether you should give it to Goodwill, so it doesn’t ambush you again next time you’re rummaging through the closet. You don’t have time for random bouts of weeping. But then you think, doesn’t that moment deserve to be remembered? Yes, it hurts to remember a tender moment with someone that you are now estranged from, but there are significant moments in life that touch us deeply, and they are so few and far between. These are the moments that make all the other moments bearable – they are the moments that carry us through the valleys, the funerals, and the tragedies of life. Just because you’ll never have a moment like that with that particular person again doesn’t mean that wasn’t a moment worth remembering. Just because that person didn’t turn out to be your life partner doesn’t mean that you weren’t partners for a season.
You put the pretty present back in the closet, but you do a better job of burying it this time. You might not find it again until you move, and you have to empty this closet and pack up everything that you own. But somehow knowing it is there comforts you. It reminds you that somebody used to love you, and maybe someday you’ll let somebody love you again.