On the Occasion of My 25th Wedding Anniversary

It was January 25, 1992. I was barely 21 years old, seven months away from receiving my bachelor’s degree, and, on that night, I was wearing an impossibly puffy, disastrously sparkly, stupidly expensive gown. I begged my bridesmaids to tell me jokes as they fussed with my gigantic hair and smoothed my over-indulgent train. “I’m going to throw up. I really, really am.”

But I didn’t.

At least not until eight years later in a Lincoln County, Nebraska courthouse, where, because I’d been the one to file, I had to take the stand and verify that my marriage was irreparably broken. As I walked—with a manufactured calm—away from the judge and toward the massive doors standing between me and my beginning again, my newly ex-husband gently pulled me into a hug. “I’m so sorry, Kelley.”

“Me, too,” I sobbed. And then I threw up.

Soon thereafter, a friend advised me to do whatever I could to forget birthdays and anniversaries. I should erase them from my calendar, he said. I should do whatever I could to turn those dates back into ordinary days, he said. They don’t matter anymore, he said.

But this one—the wedding anniversary—does. It’s because of that wedding I call two of the most extraordinary young women I’ve ever known mine. Some of my favorite memories wouldn’t have happened without that wedding. And without that wedding—and then divorce—I’d have no idea what I’m capable of.

It’s truly wretched. Divorce, I mean. It’s not at all how I thought things would go. And, for me, it turned out to be not so much something that happened, an event, so much as a force that rolls on and on and on in the most unexpected moments. Honestly, every so often I can barely breathe for the weight of it all. Yes, still.

I don’t regret it, even though it was/is ugly. In the in-between years I married a remarkable man who takes impeccable care of me and my girls, and I’m living an imperfect, but beautiful life. Again, divorce is wretched. But, as The Fray sings, sometimes the hardest things and the right things are the same.

So it’s with absolutely no sarcasm that I’m wishing myself a happy, happy anniversary.