See that photo? The one of the cute guy and the even cuter baby? That’s my soon-to-be ex-husband and our son, Charlie. The photo hangs in Charlie’s bedroom in my new house. That weird? To hang a photo of my ex in my house? I don’t think so. Know what else? There aren’t just photos of him with the kids. There are photos of him with me in their bedrooms as well, because we will always be their parents regardless of what happens between the two of us. I am so thankful that Serge and I are on the same page on this subject. Neither of us wishes to rewrite history or erase one another.
If you’re recently divorced and wondering what to do with all those photos and marriage mementos and you’re maybe not ready to hang them on the wall, do your kids a huge favor and box them up and put them in a corner of the attic. None of this divorce party, let’s burn all the photos! nonsense. Are you a jilted teenager? So stop it already! If you don’t have kids, fine, take Jager shots with your girls as you dance around the bonfire that was your marriage but if you do have kids, realize that the mementos from your marriage aren’t about you anymore, they don’t even belong to you anymore. They’re for your kids who deserve to know what coupling they come from. They have a right to be surrounded by photos of their parents and celebrate the onetime love between the two people that brought them into existence even if – especially if – you’re just not into Dad anymore. So put on your big girl panties, nicely box up your photos and marriage certificate and save them for your kids.
Take it from a child of divorce who grew up only glimpsing a few photos of her parents here and there, all of them discovered during secret missions rummaging through boxes stored in the basement. I just couldn’t fathom how the two people who I knew, who hated each other with the fire of a thousand marriage memento bonfires, could have been in love enough to have four children together. When your parents, the two people who chose to bring you into the world, choose to get rid of all evidence of their relationship it does something to a person’s self-worth, I think. When the family you come from no longer exists, when your parents try to eliminate all evidence they ever loved; it creates a sliver of shame about your family and yourself.
My wonderful Babble editor, Juliane Hiam, says she never saw pictures of her mother and father’s wedding either. She tells me, “My mother burned the photos from her wedding with my father and then regretted it horribly and talked about regretting it all the time. I distinctly remember feeling really strange every time the subject came up when I was a kid and the fact that I would never see those photos became something with an almost mystical quality to me. If I could just see them, mysteries would be unlocked. The fact that I would never see images of their wedding day felt personal to me, since I was a kid born of that marriage. And what always stuck with me was how sad I imagined my mother must’ve looked as she burned that book.”
While making the case for getting rid of marriage mementos on The Huffington Post, Vicki Larson inadvertently proves why we shouldn’t. Larson stumbled onto some old love letters from her parents which deeply affected her and caused her to question whether or not she should throw away the few keepsakes she’d kept from her own marriage. “…love poems that my father wrote to my mom when he was courting her (a six-month courtship as was common in those post-World War II days)…I loved reading my father’s poetry and was touched by some of his essays that questioned what it means to be a good husband…My dad dreamt of being a pilot, but instead he followed society’s script — be a husband, provider and father…But I mostly felt bad for my mom, a beautiful and creative woman who may have become an amazing talent if she wasn’t subject to similar societal constraints. And I couldn’t help but wonder if she wed my dad purely for immigration or financial realities instead of the script most of us imagine our parents followed — meet, date, fall in love, say, “I do.””
Whether or not the letters and keepsakes made Larson sad isn’t the point. It’s that she was given the option to read and understand her parents as real people who lived and loved and struggled. She had the choice to read about how she came to be. But Larson didn’t give her son that choice, choosing instead to rip up and throw away the few marital mementos she’d saved before she divorced when her son was 13, denying him forever the chance to get a glimpse of his parents as the people they were before him. In a few seconds she took away forever his chance to learn, first-hand, the story of his family. Why not hand over the love letters she shared with her son’s dad so he can get to know his parents as something besides Mom and Dad? You put him through the divorce of his parents at 13, taking away his shot at growing up with the two people who created him so why not give back a little something? Why not show him that love did exist before it went bad? That he comes from something that was once positive and worthwhile?
My marriage certificate, photos of us on our wedding day, love letters, cards, emails — they will all be saved for my children to do with what they wish. Attempting to erase the existence of our relationship or my one-time love for their dad is a form of denying them and I won’t do that. Ever. While the marital legacy is over for me, they will always be the product of our love and deserve to have the photos and keepsakes that shine a light into their past.
Image Source: Serge Bielanko