It’s no secret that I was married before I met Stu. That guy and I dated for years. We got married. We separated after 19 months. And life went on.
But before life went on, it had to happen. So this wedding had to happen.
A few months before the wedding, he and I were in New York City. We sat on the patio of a restaurant in Manhattan and by the end of the appetizers and our first bottle of wine, I was in tears, telling him that I cared about him, but I just didn’t think that getting married was the right move for us. It felt wrong. It felt rushed. We didn’t want the same things. Why were we doing this? Our waiter must’ve felt pretty sorry for me – in addition to the box of tissues he silently slipped next to my plate, he brought us a second bottle of wine, on the house.
But that guy who I was drinking with – the one who said he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me – he felt less sorry for me than the waiter. His response was, “Let’s just get married. Everything will be fine. Trust me. You’ll see.”
I was young and scared. We had already broken our engagement once. (I know, I KNOW.) I couldn’t look at my family and friends and tell them that we were breaking it twice, especially if he didn’t want to and I was half on the fence looking for somebody else to let me out instead of breaking down that door myself. So the wedding went forward.
At the wedding, our parents were seated across the table from us as we signed the papers that would make us husband and wife. I remember the white linen cloth that covered the table, separating me from my parents. The same white as the snow that had been steadily falling outside for three days. I remember thinking that this late November snow was enough to close schools and roads and offices, but it still wasn’t enough to shut down this wedding.
When it was time to sign on the dotted line, the officiant reached into his pocket for a pen and came up empty handed. Of course he didn’t have a pen. But there wasn’t even time to blink before my almost-husband pulled out his fancy Mont Blanc fountain pen and signed his name with a flourish. He passed it to me with a smile, and I picked up the pen, the weight of it a brick in my hand.
Just before the tip of the pen touched the paper, I heard my mom say, softly and quietly but rather firmly, “Don’t do it.”
I looked up at her. She was looking at me. We held each other’s gaze for a moment.
We had a whole conversation in that moment. A conversation where she silently said, “I see what you’ve been going through. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything sooner. But I’m saying it now. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. You can stop it now. It will be over.”
And my silent, desperate reply, “It’s too late.”
Then I looked down at the paper and signed my name on the dotted line. And it was done.
I didn’t mention that interaction with my mom to anyone, and no one mentioned it to me. My mom never brought it up. The guy I married, who was sitting right next to me when it happened, didn’t say anything about it. My dad was sitting next to my mom, and he never mentioned it. It was almost as if the world put up a bubble around me and my mom in that moment, as she quietly tried to give me a way out. But I couldn’t take it.
My mom knew I was unhappy. Mother’s always know, and now being a mother myself, I understand that more deeply than I ever could before. She knew I didn’t want to marry him. She knew I didn’t want the life he was offering me. And as much as it hurt her to see me walking into this, it hurt me to know that she knew. It was just a whole lot of uncertainty and despair hidden behind pretty clothes and a big party.
I couldn’t take the out she was offering me then. I had to walk to the end of that road to find my way home again. And when I did finally find my way home, there was my mom. Waiting with a couch for me to sleep on, a cup of tea to dip my cookies in, and my favourite blanket to keep me warm. The road I walked did end up leading me home again. Right back to my mom.