“Mama, you look so young! And look how much hair you had Daddy! You have to come and sit down and watch this with me.” Of my three children, the boy, the one who never stops moving, who never stops surprising me with “out of the mouths of babes” moments, has unearthed my wedding video and decided THIS is what he wants us to watch for movie night.
In the kitchen as I stir a pot of dakjjim (Korean braised chicken), I hear him and my middle daughter whispering to one another. “Are we at the part where they kiss yet?” They are sitting on the couch, the snack I told them they could not have before dinner on the couch between them, and they are munching away as if they are watching the greatest movie ever made.
I did not want a wedding video. My husband and I had decided it was an unnecessary expense, but somehow, after the honeymoon, my cousin presented us with a wedding video made from footage he had taken. The 2 tapes were offered with such sincerity, I did not tell him I never wanted a wedding video. I could not imagine, all those many years ago, any scenario in which I would want to watch this again. This is not because my wedding was awful. It was, in fact, so wonderful that I didn’t want my memories of that day “tainted” by the images that would be caught on tape.
I am, like most women, never happy with my image on film. Years of being raised by blunt, but loving family members who are going to tell you (fill-in-the-blank) “because no one else will tell you” and because we love you, and also, sometimes just because it’s too funny not to pass up an opportunity to make fun/make an example of you. Also, I have documented proof that I did truly have “the longest ugly period of anyone else in the family.” Someone once told me that people who don’t like to have their pictures taken usually take bad pictures, perhaps because they are uncomfortable, and thus smile unnaturally, or in a way that reveals they think of the camera as their enemy. I can attest to this, as I am always the one in the picture with one or both eyes closed, mouth in the middle of saying “But I really don’t want to have my picture taken,” hair looking like monkeys had just been foraging for dinner in it, likely wearing the most unflattering outfit that I own.
We are surrounded everyday by images of airbrushed perfection. Wedding magazines are filled with brides in perfectly-fitting gowns, holding perfectly formed bouquets in a perfectly decorated wedding venue. Is it any wonder that we frequently cannot look in the mirror without feeling that what we are is enough? Even the recent Academy Awards winner, Lupita Nyong’o, radiant as she accepted her recent award, talked about the days when the images on television or in magazines made her despair and pray to God that she would awaken and look more like what she perceived to be perfection.
And so, I knew that if we had a wedding video, I would be unhappy if I watched it. I packed the wedding videos in moving boxes from one house to the next, taking them hundreds of miles across the country, and never once watched them. I treasured my memories, and when friend after friend got married and asked to look at my wedding photos or video in preparation for their own wedding photographer requests, I held steadfast in my belief that watching the video would ruin my memories of that beautiful April day.
And then, from the kitchen, I hear “It’s Great-Grandma! And Grandpa Griffin!” And my heart leaps. I want to see my grandma again. And against my will, I am pulled toward the screen. And I am able to see again so many people I love that I thought I’d never see again, laughing, praying, watching me and loving me on one of the most sacred days of my life. How was I this blind for so many years? I am floored all over again by the joy of that day surrounded by family and friends, by the immensity of our vows, and by the witnessing of faith in the sanctity of marriage by all those present. How did I forget that the day was not about me or how my hair looked, but instead about the people who were present that day with us as we started our lives together. And for once, I don’t care, I’m not looking at me but looking at the congregation in the church, and at the reception, looking at the faces filled with happiness of all the people I love, and all the people I will never get to see again. Until the next time I watch the video, of course. I grab my husband’s hand, and point out little scenes we missed between people who have passed away, and we laugh a little through our tears at how young we all looked.
Today, I am grateful for the wedding video that I did not want, and for the ability to see beyond myself. I am thankful for children who think that watching Mama and Daddy get married is high-quality cinema worth watching for family movie night, and for showing me how wrong I was.