i found a wedding album under my bed this morning. we had three: one arty black and white, one traditional, and one my cousin patrick made for us, with captions written in his nine-year-old's penciled script, which is the one i found.
i showed the bride-obsessed naomi: "here's when your mommy was a bride" (she loved the dress), "and your mommy and daddy danced together and were very happy."
and it was true: whatever events would trigger our collapse in seven years, as the couple celebrating their wedding in those pictures, we were happy. we were in love, as much as we ever were.
"where was i?"
"you weren't born yet. see how little becca was?"
indeed: becca was only a few years older than naomi is now. in 1999 she would have been six.
and it was all, "who is this? who is that? is that your wedding cake? did you and daddy eat your wedding cake together? why is nana falling over?"
i hadn't seen that album in years, probably not since before the end. the last time i saw it, i probably flipped through it nonchalantly with a "hey look how young we all were!" and "damn, that was a great dessert table". this time i scanned our apparently happy faces, looking for foreshadowings of the ending. there were none. we were young, blissful, trusting that everything we had would always be there.
but the day took off, as days do, leaving no space for ruminations. i suppressed the threatening detonation and went down to make breakfast, change a diaper, find lost toys and manage the emotions of other people.
if i were alone, i would have pulled the covers over my head and cried (6:30 am is too early for this kind of upset). or maybe i would have gotten into the shower and let the hot water scald the sadness away. at the very least, i could have let the thoughts run in a straight line until they found their way to a conclusion, or a resolution.
but the questions, the interruptions, the intrusions, kept coming.
and after the questions, the needs and reactions, a meltdown over the wrong kind of cup, the operatic fake crying, the screeching sound of preverbal frustration. the noise downed out any kind of thinking i could have done, and suddenly i resembled the grinch: "the noise noise noise NOISE!"
"mommy, are you... crying?" said the little girl who never sees her mommy cry.
i ran upstairs, they followed with their sandwiches, and smeared jelly all over the sheets as they pawed over my sobbing body.
i wanted to crawl out of my skin. i was caught in one of the conundrums of parenting: the more weakness you display, the more they need you to be strong. the more you need to get away, the more they cling. stopping to feel was simply not a luxury i could afford. an explosion was inevitable, and messy it was.
the explosion, the tears, the apologies and make-up songs are all over now and i have the purged feeling of the air after a thunderstorm, the clarity of a cleared landscape. i also have the exhaustion of a sleepless night followed by an emotional volcano, and my girls are wise to tread carefully around me today. by tomorrow i'll be fine again.