Welcome to this week's Wednesdays with Wendy!
Wednesdays with Wendy: Anniversaires
by Wendy Bradford
The end of summer has brought--along with record humidity and, recently, back-t0-school chaos--nostalgia to our household since my husband and I became a couple. As a writer and as a mother, it is what I do best: return to the places and times my story began, changed, developed, and opened.
The approach of Labor Day marks several anniversaries. At the end of August, on a lake in Upstate New York, ten years ago this summer, my husband proposed we get married. He jumped in the lake to ask, while I sat in shock, in a paddle boat, and worked hard to not drop the ring in the deep water. A couple of weeks ago, on that same date, we visited that lake with our three children. We remembered that bright, easy Sunday when we headed out toward an island in the middle of Lake George, my husband nervous and withdrawn, myself tired, hungover from Italian wine the night before. And what went through both my husband's and my mind as we revisited that moment, our three young children in tow, gazing now at the sunbathers on the shore? "Had we only known then..."
Fourteen years ago, the saturday of Labor Day weekend, my husband and I moved here from Boston. We barely knew each other, had no jobs, no cash, a tiny studio apartment to share, and a wish to build a life in New York City. Until our first child was born, we returned each Labor Day to the same restaurant where we had spent that first night in New York--a Mexican restaurant on the Upper East Side at which we had spent money we didn't have on frozen margaritas, and wondered in silence each with our own fears, excitement, and second thoughts at the foreignness of Third Avenue. We returned each year to that same outdoor table to relive those first scary moments, days, months in New York together. They, mostly, were not happy ones. But time retells our stories; the difficult days seem romantic and simple. It is why we return to the places we no longer belong.
This past weekend, I brought my oldest daughter to the emergency room at Cornell Hospital on Sunday night. She was in great pain, and I worried it was her appendix. Six years ago, almost to the hour, I was in a cab with my husband headed to the same place. I was in labor with her. (I, however, did not vomit in the cab as my poor sick daughter did.) As she and I spent most of the night there, waiting between tests on a gurney in the hallway, I willed myself back to that night--when my husband and I were on the verge of becoming parents. I wished to relive in any way that impossible anticipation (and relaxation of the epidural!). I was more frightened then than I was bringing my child to the emergency room. (The practice of motherhood makes you tougher than you think you can be.) But even in the same building, six years later on a tremendous anniversary, I could not go back any more than I could deny I have a daughter fascinated now with the sonogram showing the inner workings of her stomach.
The thing about memories is that they tease. We remember anniversaries, to a great extent, to relive. But the past is as elusive as dreams. It is impossible to recall all the feelings, thoughts, and joys with accuracy. The good memories are so good that we want to be back in that space and time. They may delight us in the present, or bring a mix sadness and happiness; they bring us back to loved ones that have changed, grown older, or that we have lost. For all our reasons, we celebrate the critical markers of our lives, the years that pass, the constant pursuit of returning for just a moment.