A week or so ago, I was looking for something in the closet where I throw everything that doesn’t have a place. Please tell me you all have a closet like that. I have three, maybe four? (New Year’s Resolution #1: Clean out closets.) I don’t remember what I was looking for, but one thing I found was a bag I had put items in as I cleaned out the car. Yes, that’s how I clean out the car–the stuff goes in a bag, and the bag goes in a closet. Car’s clean! Out of sight out of mind, that is until I need to find something.
In the case of this bag, when I rifled through it something red and sparkly caught my eye. It was an envelope. I read the names on the envelope, opened it, and sat back in surprise. It was a wedding reception invitation from my college friend. We were in the same major, and one semester we had every class together. We became close friends and stayed in contact for a few years, then I moved out-of-state and we lost touch. We kept up on facebook until a while back when I noticed we were no longer friends. I wondered if she was taking a break from facebook, but then found her page and realized the sad truth: she had “unfriended” me. I was a bit baffled.
Now with the revelation of the long-lost wedding invitation, it seems clear that the reason might have had something to do with my failure to respond to her invitation. I am guessing due to our friendship and the fact that she came to my bridal shower and sent a lovely card and money for my wedding, my lack of response was pretty hurtful. And I’m here to say I am sorry.
As I sat, I tried to think of why I would not have responded. For a clue, I looked at the date, and the picture became clearer. It was the year we moved into our house. The move has enough drama to fill many blog posts, but what I will say here is that the house is very old, it had a lot wrong with it (thus we could afford to move into a great neighborhood we couldn’t have otherwise), and moving is the worst. Especially with (at the time) three kids, two with extra challenges. Especially when all the stuff that needed to be fixed was NOT fixed when we moved in.
You know when people say, “If you want to know if you are compatible with someone, go on a weekend camping trip.” I’m here to tell you that’s B.S. If you want to know if you are compatible with someone, move into an old house together with lots of stuff wrong with it. That was the biggest test of my entire marriage. Having a kid with a surprise Down syndrome diagnosis had nothing on moving into a house like this. It was rough. And the aforementioned wedding invitation arrived right in the throes of it.
The hardest part for me about moving was that everything I did to make the house livable took about 5 times longer than I thought it would. Either I was overconfident in my skills or the damage was more extensive than I knew.
My husband took a week off work after we closed to watch the kids, and I worked every day at the house, thinking we could move maybe a week later. Four weeks of working on the house later, we had to close on our other house and had no choice but to move. During the two weeks preceding the move, I would work at my part-time job some nights until 9pm, then drive a half hour to the new house and work there until 1am or so. The night before the movers were coming, I was mopping at the new house because much of the work I had done involved lead paint, and I didn’t want the movers tracking it all over the house. I set down my mop at 3:30am and drove the half hour home, then woke at 7am to greet the movers.
I am jealous of people who get to move into a pristine new house. When we moved into our house, we were still waiting for the remodeling company to replace the windows in our kids’ rooms. It was a lead job, so we couldn’t move them into their rooms for weeks. Our kids were sleeping on the couches, Kyle slept in a playpen, and I had removed all of the trim in the master bedroom and was working on refinishing new trim so all of the furniture was pushed to the middle of the room. This plus the kids had to start at a new school. The kids’ bathroom (with our only bathtub) was unusable for months after we moved in. It was a recipe for disaster.
Despite all of the time I needed to spend on remodeling (which I love doing, don’t get me wrong. I was born to remodel old houses), I think I was having some issues with the stress of the move. I took that stress and channeled it into landscaping. I spent every free moment not unpacking, not painting, but digging. I was obsessed with blocking out the new houses that were being built around us, so I planted 37 trees and shrubs in one season. Looking back, I realized that this was my “therapy.” I suppose it worked, because my marriage survived the summer. My obsessive landscaping caused a strain, though.
During that chapter of our lives, we received a few other bridal shower, baby shower, and wedding invitations, plus a few graduation announcements. We did not respond to most of them. If we did respond, we didn’t send anything. I am not proud of this, in fact, I am ashamed to put it in writing.
When we got married almost over a decade ago, I was a naive 21-year-old. My world at the time revolved around my wedding. I checked and double-checked response cards and obsessed over the ones I didn’t receive. I kept records on who came to the wedding, and whether or not I received a gift from the people who didn’t. The guest list was, by contrast, haphazardly done: we invited people whom we would never hear from again, and omitted some important people. I am not proud of this either.
Unfortunately, what I have learned is that my response to an invitation depends completely on what is happening in my life at the time. That feels very self-centered to write. Sometimes it is hard to find a good answer for why we neglect to send a gift. Most often, it is the hectic nature of our lives with four kids and our broken old house.
I write my friends’ birthdays on the calendar, but sometimes I wake up in the morning and see all of their facebook birthday messages and think, OH NO!! I forgot to buy and/or send the card!! One of my best friends has become so accustomed to my lateness that when I got my act together and send her card on time this year, she sent me this message:
I love my dear friend. Mostly, I appreciate how my friends accept this trait of mine and understand it is nothing personal. It’s all about memory, and in my case, neglecting to send something for someone’s wedding/shower/graduation has no bearing on how much I love them. (New Year’s Resolution #2: Send birthday cards, invitation responses, and gifts on time.)
So to all of my cousins who sent me lovely graduation announcements, I love you and I am proud of you. I am sorry I didn’t send a card.
To all of our friends and family who got married in the past few years, we love you and we are so happy for you. We are sorry we didn’t send a gift.
And to my dear college friend, I have so many happy memories of our time in and out of classes senior year of college. I am not sure if there is a way I could make it up to you, but I am sorry I never responded to your wedding invitation. I hope you can forgive me, and I hope we cross paths again someday.