Yesterday would have been my parents’ 39th wedding anniversary – 39 years. Because of her illness, their life together was cut short after 26 years – 26 short years. Some couples are fortunate enough to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary together among great grandchildren while others only have a few years, sometimes less. Time is indifferent to the depths at which we love, to the reasons why we love. Joy and sadness, laughter and tears, passion and sacrifice, and every other emotion that two people in love can experience – this might describe anyone in love. It also describes the 26 years that my parents got to spend with each other.
My parents’ story began in their native Honduras, during a time when my mother had plans to emigrate to the United States. I often think that my parents were destined for separation from the day they met. And from the very start, they fought to be together. My father didn’t have plans to leave Honduras, but all that changed when the love of his life left their beloved country searching for a better life, and he knew he needed to follow her. Just months after my mother left Honduras to work as a nanny in Miami, my father found a way to join her in what was to them the land of opportunity. His journey here wasn’t easy, but his sacrifices for their new life that now suddenly seemed possible led to that life-altering flight one day in 1974. To New York, 1,282 miles away from Miami, but just one step away from building a future together with my mother.
After a few years and a lot of hard work, my parents were reunited in New Jersey. They were married on January 19, 1977, on a cold winter day. My mother dreamed of a beautiful church wedding, but she settled for a simple court ceremony and a small celebration with family and friends. I have a photograph of my parents’ wedding ceremony. In fact, it is the only photograph I have of it. It’s not in focus, nor are my parents centered in the image. It is more a photograph of my mother and a relative of ours since my father is partially cropped out at the far right of the frame.
When I was a teenager starting to think about love stories, I wanted to know where theirs began, where they got married, where they had their wedding celebration, where they honeymooned. I wanted to know where all their wedding photos were. Yes, there were photos to document the day. I had seen a handful of them, but there surely were more that would bring their story to life for a 13 year old romantic. There weren’t. She would have loved a “proper church wedding” ceremony. She would have loved for her parents and sisters to be there for family portraits. She would have loved a wedding celebration, dancing with friends and family, emptying champagne bottles, laughing freely into the quiet of the early morning. She would have loved posing for formal wedding portraits with her new groom.
There are a handful of photos that document the day. A blurry photo of exchanging vows at the courthouse. A photo of my parents exiting the courthouse with a few relatives. A snapshot of my parents celebrating with family in their modest one-bedroom apartment. A pair of tired, informal wedding portraits on the couch at the end of the night.
The young woman I see in these photos, whose face reflects my own and is full of love and excitement for the future, at that moment in time could never have found a flaw in any of the photos. But the mother of a curious 13 year old daughter regretted not being able to re-live the moments, from the biggest to the smallest, of the day with the loved ones who couldn’t be there and the ones who weren’t yet there. And when our couples ask us how we became wedding photographers, these are the reasons why…