Seven years ago, I ensured I would never again have to grab for a bouquet in a gamble against single ladies where the odds were always stacked against me. I tossed a floral arrangement over my shoulder in the banquet hall of a Presbyterian church in Nashville, a wedding band affixed to my throwing hand. Some other hopeful girl caught dreams of nuptials that day. And my marriage began.
We were young and fearfully optimistic. Stubborn and hot-tempered. My targeted intentionality met his slow, steady pace with frustration. My direct, straightforward speech stirred his calm demeanor just long enough to glimpse the passive aggressive mass beneath the surface of the silence.
But give us a piano, and the silence abated. We loved each other best in music. I’ve yet to meet another man with whom my mezzo-soprano voice mingled so effortlessly. He had a Triton keyboard we could record on. Sometimes he’d play me Brian McKnight or John Legend. Sometimes we’d sing worship songs. Sometimes we’d write music together or translate a favorite tune from Spanish.
So when my librarian friend Melissa offered me a free piano, I didn’t hesitate. It was mammoth – it took five guys and a few hours to move it and not without injury. It was a vertical, nearly as tall as it was wide. It was a Victorian, chestnut in color with ornate, decorative woodwork and a mirror that cracked when we moved to our last home together, and our friends swore they would never lift the monstrosity again.
That piano was our piano. Back when “we” and “our” were pronouns that naturally meant my husband and me. My friend Angela is getting married this weekend. Like me, she’s been divorced. Naturally, she wants “we” to be permanent this time around. She’s fearless and assertive to an inspiring degree. Angela doesn’t even let songs with past significance interfere with her ability to enjoy them now.
But my husband and I made music together. It was an experience. I can’t imagine a day when hearing Back at One doesn’t conjure the memory of his voice and his passion. His fingers finding the right keys even while he’s looking at me, and my voice finding the harmony to complement his melody.
That’s why we loved each other best in music. He took the lead. He was confident and committed. He picked the songs. And I complemented him.
It isn’t surprising, really, in retrospect, that shortly after we stopped playing that piano together, we stopped altogether. Mom flew down to help me move some of my things to a storage facility before heading back to Syracuse to live with her and Dad. There was no moving the piano with just the two of us. I left it with him. Like listening to our treasured songs, playing its keys without him would feel hypocritical.
Weddings are obviously an altered experience for the post-divorce attendee. I was reminded of this on Saturday when Charming took me to his friend’s wedding. During the ceremony, when they approached the exchanging of vows, I could feel my muscles tighten. I was aware of Charming’s hand in mine. The best character attribution I could conjure in that moment was that I was a fraud… and if everyone weren’t staring at the beautiful bride and groom, I was certain they could know that just by looking at me.
This was my fifth post-divorce wedding, so I knew the feeling wouldn’t last past the church parking lot. I was already laughing again by the time my heels clicked on pavement. The reception was held at The Congressional Country Club in Maryland. Excited to have squeezed into an impossibly small dress for the evening, I coaxed Charming’s friend into snapping some photographs with the backdrop of the most exquisite golf course I’ve ever seen. (Though I’m not sure I could drive off the first tee with an entire wedding reception looking on from the balcony enjoying horderves and an open bar).
We literally danced the night away. The band’s selection of wedding dance music was divine intervention. For a few hours, no one else existed. Charming and I rivaled the swing moves my brother and I made at my Aunt Becky’s wedding back in high school. A couple complimented us after spinning our way through Build Me Up Buttercup. I thought about my ex-husband during the ceremony, but not the reception.
The pronouns “we” and “us” don’t refer to him anymore. There was a different “we” sweeping the dance floor. And there’s a different piano in my dining room. It’s an upright, fitting perfectly in front of the windows without blocking the light. It’s cherry in color, its woodwork and Queen Anne’s feet matching my living room furniture. Really, the piano is a better fit for me. It’s different, but it’s better.
And of course that’s what I hope about the current “we”. Charming and I followed our day of nuptials with an outing to church, an afternoon celebrating his grandma’s birthday, and an evening making repairs to his rental property up north. Each weekend event highlighted the blessing that our second chances afford us. Our common interests, couple routines, and shared desire to correct past shortcomings had me driving back to Hampton with a smile on my face… despite my broken A/C unit.
No doubt Charming was thinking about his ex-wife during the ceremony, too. We both made those vows to other people seven years ago, within a month of one another. Both of those marriages ended. They were supposed to be forever. When I stand up for Angela on Saturday, I vow to support her union long after the rice has settled. I believe for her that this “we” will be permanent, that this second chance is all she’ll need, that these vows won’t ever be broken.
The vows will be tested, though. We know that now, the post-divorce wedding attendees. At the surface level, we’ll jest about what we would have done differently at our own ceremony or reception, but rarely will you hear us share openly about what we would have done differently in the marriages that followed. I spent six months of my life and loads of my parents’ money on a day that marked the start of a marriage that wouldn’t make it more than four years.
There wasn’t a bouquet toss last weekend, much to my relief. I’m not an optimistic, young, single hopeful anymore. Like fairy dust, the magic of catching the bride’s bouquet would probably only work if I believed in it. At Angela’s celebration, I will undoubtedly be reminded of my wedding day. It’s natural. As natural as “we” used to mean someone else entirely.
But this different “we” that Angela is forming is a better one. We believe that this one will be the last one. That’s why we’re willing to make the vows again, someday, even those of us who feel like frauds. It’s when we’re dancing with Prince Charming after our hearts have been broken that we dare to believe in second chances and happy endings.