Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Our Wedding was not Like a Birthday

An Attempt at Wisdom from Nine Months In

{photo by Leonel Medrano and Iris Bai}

This Saturday marks 9 whole months since we got hitched!  Woohoo!  So tonight we're seeing Lobby Hero at the Skirball Center to celebrate.  (OK, so we didn't really buy the tickets with a monthiversary in mind, but I'm calling it an anniversary celebration so whatever.)  I'll tell you how it was next week!

Even though nine months seems so short, I feel like in that time, I have learned more than I ever expected to about myself, and about how to be not just a girlfriend, but a wife.  Most importantly, I've learned the difference.

When I was engaged, and I imagined waking up on the morning after my wedding, I thought it would be just like waking up on the morning of my birthday – everyone mockingly asking “how does it feel?” and me expectedly answering “same as yesterday.”  Not that I didn’t think our wedding would be a totally awesome celebration; I just thought it would be more like a big party than a game changer.  We had been together for five years, and we had just moved in together a month before the wedding, so what could a few promises and a license have on us, right? 

{one month before our wedding; moving in together and painting endlessly to cover the awful yellow walls in our Berkeley apartment}

But it turns out for me, getting married was most definitely not like turning a year older, and being married is definitely not like being not married.

The difference is that now, we have albums.  For five years before we got married, the file folders of jpegs on my laptop did the job of preserving our memories just fine.  But now?  Now that’s not enough.  Now, we have hard-bound, paper-printed, legitimate family albums to fill with our very own family history.

{taken by a very nice stranger, just after we picked up our marriage license at the SF City Hall}

I spent a good amount of time during our engagement thinking about the merger of our two extended families – you know, the usual issues of how we would split up holidays and handle family gatherings.  But my thoughts never extended past my static vision of “family” where I played the role of daughter, granddaughter, niece.  What I failed to wrap my head around was the fact that our wedding would also mark the transformation of my life-date into my closest family member, my emergency contact, and the face connected to mine by a horizontal line on the family tree.

But how do you conceptualize something so hugely transformative?  With pictures, obvi.

{NYE 2011}

I remember a moment from before our wedding when I was looking at old family photos of my parents as newlyweds and me as a child, and somewhere between my first Halloween and my second birthday party, I felt my perspective shift.  I realized that my parents must have consciously collected and preserved these albums with the thought of showing them to me one day, so that I could know my back-story, my history.  And I realized that now it was my and Brian's turn to fill our own album.  It was our turn to grow our own family, to make our own history, and to build a story to pass on when our family expanded.  It was a quiet, heavy realization, like an emotional handing off of responsibility.

{Maui, on our honeymoon}

That's when I realized that the wedding I had dismissed as a formality was actually a big deal.  Huge.  Marrying Brian suddenly meant so much more than I ever thought the label “husband” entailed.  But, after I recovered from my minor panic attack à la Carrie Bradshaw when she breaks into hives in the wedding dress shop, I was excited.  (Only a small part of this excitement was about having an excuse to buy a new photo album, I swear.)  I was excited to wake up the day after our wedding and see what it felt like to be family.

{the picture on our first annual family Christmas card...yep, starting it off right}

Since our wedding, I've bought an album and deemed it with pride to be our first family photo album, and now it's about 1/3 of the way full.  Starting the album project was a bit intimidating, though, because it just felt so ridiculous.  I mean, who actually prints out large numbers of amateur point-and-shoot candids of seemingly unimportant events?  I was sure the photo-printing people at CVS were secretly laughing at me.

{Aruba, January 2011}

But now, nine months into this fam thing, standing at that CVS photo counter feels pretty legitimate, and slipping my freshly printed glossies into the 4x6 plastic album sleeves makes my heart swell.  It's a reminder of what the whole point of this marriage thing is, and it's a confirmation for me that marriage matters, and that our wedding was most definitely not like a birthday.

{taken by our friend, Dana, on a rainy afternoon at the Academy of Sciences in SF}


Dana said...

Um... way to make me cry on the way to work. Seriously- commuters must think I'm crazy right now. Such a beautiful story

Ashley said...

Aw, I'm sorry for the bad timing! But thank you :)

I miss you tons and can't wait to see you for the 4th of July!!

Anonymous said...

You remember when you told me: "mom don't be sad that I am getting married, everything will be the same"! Then I realized that you didn't have "the heavy realization" yet. I love you both so much!

Celia said...

Just opened APW this morning and saw this post! I am honored to know you (and I'm glad I got to read the full thing here!)