Five years ago, I woke up in my childhood bed. A full-sized bed, decked in faded flowers. The bed on which I used to scatter my notes to study. The bed on which I used to sit with friends and gossip. The bed which I used to share with Sister C every Christmas Eve. You see, when I went off to Yale, C inherited my room. When C went off to Yale, T inherited her room. One after one, we Donnelley girls graduated from that room full of old pictures and books and trophies to much smaller dorm rooms on a certain New Haven campus. One by one, we graduated from that bed, that tall iron bed decorated in white Christmas lights year round, to much smaller beds where we spent our collegiate slumber.
Five years ago, I woke up in that bed for the last time. It was my wedding day. Per tradition, Husband and I had spent the night apart. It was a mild December morning. I woke up early and I just stayed there, under the cloud of covers, looking out the window onto the street I grew up on. I studied the naked branches of the trees. The windows on homes across the street. I looked at the ceiling. My shelter for so long. I stayed there in those moments, giddy with anticipation, on the brink of big change. Good change. Exquisite change.
I spent the morning surrounded by my family and best friends. We all nibbled on pastries and took turns getting our hair and makeup done. We played Christmas music. When the time came, I descended the steps to the parlor level of my parents’ home. And there it hung. My dress. My big dress. Champagne duchess silk with rich embroidery and a splash of color. Two turquoise beaded doves kissing on the back.
Sister C helped me step into my dress. We did this slowly so the photographer and videographer could get good shots. And I am glad we did this slowly. Because in that moment, I remember staring at the fat Christmas tree up front. The rainbow lights shining bright. The ornaments we loved dangling from branches. When I was in the dress, I twirled around a bit as my bridesmaids snapped pics. And then I saw it. The quote Dad loved so much, he had it framed and displayed.
Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.
I always loved that quote too. Dad and I had several conversations about this quote. About the crooked complexity of life. I always thought that Isaiah Berlin said these words, but turns out it was Kant. Anyway, I remember glimpsing those words on that day. I remember noticing them. I think so at least.
I just Googled “fifth year anniversary” and I was touched to see that it is the wooden anniversary. I do not have a wooden gift for Husband, but maybe I will print him that quote, timeless and true, and hand it over. That counts, right?
Or maybe I will just show him Dad’s framed words. You see, tonight of all nights, is the annual Donnelley Christmas party. Husband and I will get dressed up and we will take our little girls—in their matching silver dresses—over to my childhood home to celebrate. We will mingle with our family’s close friends, so many of whom celebrated our wedding with us. We will stand in that room where I stood wearing my best dress for the first time. We will walk our girls up to that big tree blanketed in those same lights and those same ornaments.
And then. After the girls have gone home and to bed, Husband and I will follow the sound of debauchery. We will go upstairs. To my old bedroom. It will be chock full of T’s college friends. They will be there, plopped on my old bed, sipping from clear plastic cups. Husband and I will duck in and say hello. And I will study the old pictures and the old trophies. I will look out that window at the same street. The same trees. The same December sky.
And then, at some point, Husband and I will say goodbye. Hand-in-hand, we will walk toward home. But we might not go straight home. If I have my way, we will make a slight detour and walk around a certain museum. A museum where five short and long years ago we danced so much and smiled so big. A museum where this all began. And if it’s not too cold and we are not too tired and my heels don’t hurt too much, we will climb those grand front steps and sit under two vast dinosaurs made of pine. We will sit there for a few moments. Huddled together. Happy together. Wordlessly, we will celebrate our lasting love and our loving family. In that cold night air, we will toast dreams and memories and the crooked timber that is life.