I always post this piece on February 3rd. It was originally published on February 3, 2005 on my old blog, Third Street (which was the original OTBKB).
Today is the anniversary of Smartmom’s parents. February 3rd. The date is etched in her mind. She and her sister would go to the same gift shop year after year to buy their anniversary gift. West Town House smelled of bath soap and sachet. It was just a block and a half from their Riverside Drive apartment. They’d browse for an hour or more. With only a few dollars folded in their small hands, they’d find something to buy: maybe stone paper weight or a letter opener, which the owner would gift wrap in green paper and a black ribbon bow.
Smartom’s parents aren’t married anymore. They’ve been separated since 1976. But February 3rd still stops her short. And while they’ve been separated for longer than they were together, February 3rd means only one thing: the beginning of something that later came to an end.
Groovy Grandma showed OSFO her wedding album a few weeks ago. A large, white, leather-bound book, the black and white photographs present Smartmom’s parents on their ceremonial day. In a simple and elegant, calf-length gown, Groovy Grandma looks like Audrey Hepburn; her hair is close-cropped like Hepburn’s too.
Groovy Grandpa, with no trace of the beard that would later define him, looks pleased with himself and his bride. Their parents gather around them – mythical parents, they are all dead now. They look happy for this union, for this coming together.
Later, OSFO said, “Grandma doesn’t look like herself,” Maybe she didn’t recognize her 78-year old grandmother as a beautiful young bride. Maybe she was surprised to see her grandparents together; she never seen them that way. It probably seemed strange; a little out of whack.
The separation came as a surprise, dramatic as it was. The rupture was sudden: suitcases packed; black garbage bags, filled with men’s clothing, tossed. All traces of him were banished from the apartment; an anguished wife’s ill-fated attempt at an exorcism.
Smartmom was only seventeen, a senior in high school, on the cusp of going away. It was awful to see her family bi-furcated. She was in the throes of first love, first sex, deciding her future. Now this?
Like an ostrich, Smartmom buried her head in her own sandy concerns while her mother grieved and her father sublet a studio on the other side of town.
And when her first love decided he didn’t love her after all, she bifurcated too. “Don’t leave me,” she cried pathetically for days. “It’s gonna take a miracle to make me love someone new cause I’m crazy for you.” Smartmom played that Laura Nyro song over and over on the phonograph in the living room.
But he left anyway.
February 3rd is just another day. But for someone whose family doesn’t exist anymore, Smartmom will always honor the beginning of something that later came to an end.
Photo of a wedding bouquet by Rebecca Shepherd Floral Design and Adornments