Thirty-five years ago today I first got married, aged 18, a scarily young bride who was in retrospect far more in love with the idea of being in love than with her 21-year-old groom. We were totally unsuited to each other, and should never in a million years have got hitched, but at that time in the world we lived in getting married was just what people did. Sadly, one way or another the reality of that unfortunate legal liaison was for me a thoroughly rude awakening to the best and worst of adult life to the point that five years, three children and one near-fatal overdose later I left him, never to return.
It may seem odd still to mark the anniversary of such an unhappy marriage after all this time, especially as I’m now very happily married to someone else – to my best friend, in fact – but how can I not remember such an important anniversary when the most tumultuous experiences I’ve ever had in my life were condensed into the relatively short space of time when my first husband and I were legally joined together. Giving birth to my three beautiful babies, being zonked out on valium for nigh on two years and then the devastating nuclear fallout of trying to kill myself has inevitably left its mark – how could I ever forget?
Confusingly I can’t find it in my heart to regret a toxic relationship that ultimately created life – well, three lives – during that same period of time it almost destroyed my own. Each year that passes takes me further away from those darker memories, and although the old hurts may be long healed the scars still remain. And divorce may have given me my legal freedom, but genetically the ghost of him lives on in my much-loved children and grandchildren, and like it or not in them we stay in part forever shackled together.
So I always consider the anniversary of that first wedding each year in my own way, depending on how I’m feeling on the day. This year I’m feeling quiet and thoughtful, eternally glad still to be here on this earth and still to have a good relationship with my children in spite of all our ups and downs and familial difficulties over their formative years. I love them all as fiercely and passionately as ever, and find I cannot simply erase the memory of their father from my new-and-improved life narrative just because it may suit me to do so, and as a result I still regard the continuing recognition of my first marriage as a relevant part of their birthright…