How a friend’s divorce affected my own marriage

What had happened between the first me and the second? (Hannah Agosta / For the Times)

I never expected to see Emma again, but she was there, inside the USPS package at my door in suburban Los Angeles, stamped with New Jersey. “I know you admired this model,” my friend Suzie wrote of the unusual decision to return the wedding gift I sent her 18 years ago. “Now that I am moving to a new place, I have decided not to take the past with me. Why shouldn’t you take advantage of what’s left of the set? “

“Emma” was the name of the casual yet chic everyday porcelain that Suzie – a friend of mine from college – chose for her wedding.

I remember buying Emma from Pottery Barn, where Suzie was enrolled. I had married my then-boyfriend, Matt, two years earlier. Our first date was at a cafe in Westwood. We found out that we were both born at UCLA Medical Center and both love red meat (even though you were supposed to pretend otherwise in healthy LA). It had been a fit ever since. By the time of Suzie’s big day, Matt and I had swung on a 900 square foot house not far from the housewares store.

With a limited mortgage budget, I could afford to buy Suzie’s coffee mugs, mugs with delicately beaded edges in yellow, white, and green. It was a vivid memory of an exciting time in my life. Her wedding ceremony, at the Los Angeles River Center & Gardens, was dazzling, as befits a Suzie in white lace and her partner in a tuxedo. Everything was falling into place, both for my friend and for Matt and I, I thought, sipping champagne.

But life got complicated. I had a miscarriage and the tests revealed fertility issues that worsened with each new specialist in Santa Monica I was sent to. Matt and I were no longer the cowardly young people who hung out in cafes. During this time, Suzie was living in Marina del Rey. But as she watched the boats come and go from her balcony, it seemed like she wasn’t permanently moored either.

I had babies, defying predictions. Suzie and I worked on screenplays at night. Then her partner announced that they were returning to New Jersey to seriously embark on “real” careers. I believe Suzie and I would have made it to Hollywood if we had persisted, but she didn’t have much to say about it. Her eventual divorce was not surprising, but at least she had kept in touch from another time zone.

It was strange, but when I heard Emma was fired, it caused melancholy.

Maybe because the announcement came around my 20th wedding anniversary, which took place in a pandemic and featured a series of robotic congratulations from my kids, who were so bored of school. Zoom that they didn’t care about anything anymore.

Maybe it’s because if you had asked me at the start of my marriage, I would have told you my 20th birthday would be at the Eiffel Tower with baguettes and romance, not quarantined in my dining room. eat with take out and quarrels.

Maybe it was because back when Emma was new, I didn’t know most of our friends from LA would be leaving for Portland, Oregon, or North Carolina or anywhere with viable schools and purchasable houses. I had no idea Matt and I would end up being the last assholes in our hometown, seemingly the only ones to shake their heads when a $ 6 cup of coffee arrived.

Maybe it was because we knew that while Matt and I were still together and Emma’s original owners weren’t, it had come at a cost – financial and relationship difficulties and a feeling of walking in life separately rather than enjoying it together. The younger me at Pottery Barn would have told you that life is about thriving, not surviving. What had happened between the first me and the second?

The truth was, this slice of the past had all the triggers in it. The years between then and now had been a bigger challenge than I expected.

When I was graduating from college and couldn’t imagine beyond marriages, job titles, and babies, I believed that choosing a like-minded spouse would lead to a straight and smooth path in life.

At the time, I had no idea that I was going to feel romantic disillusionment and incredible loneliness in a working partnership or that there would be several years my husband would be working weekends, while I was basically a single parent, resentfully wondering if I was even in good shape. for such overwhelming work. Little did I know there would be a full decade in which the same fight would reoccur over which genes would be responsible for three-phase orthodontics – for each of our three children. You cannot understand these things when you are young.

But then I pulled Emma out of the brown shipping box, once again admiring the mix of light yellow, sage green, and white in the collection’s original color palette.

The cups were still pretty, I thought, looking at them in the Southern California sunlight from my kitchen. They had been through a lot, traveling between LA and the East Coast – twice. They didn’t really look new and shiny, but they were surprisingly sturdy.

Matt and I were like them, I thought, untouched and ready for new adventures – hopefully the ones we can afford that will take us out of Los Angeles every now and then when the kids grow up. We still love the Southland, but someday it would be nice to compare cheeseburgers elsewhere.

I decided to prepare some coffee to enjoy in the courtyard. When I caught a yellow Emma, ​​I noticed a tiny, almost unnoticeable chip. I smiled a little. None of life’s unexpected trials had broken me or my messy and imperfect partnership with Matt. Emma’s first house may have been broken up, but Matt and I weren’t going anywhere. Hopefully Emma and I would have plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company.

The author is completing a Masters of Fine Arts at UC Riverside and is working on a dissertation on the life of a stay-at-home mom in LA. She’s on Twitter @RFSpalding.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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