My ex-husband came to Shelter Island to deliver the remainder of boxes I had stored in his basement, my former residence on the North Fork. “You have a lot of love letters in there,” he said. “Really?” I asked, surprised both by the information and the fact that he had apparently read the letters, which were not from him. I had been wondering what might be contained in the delivery that might be interesting, useful, or exciting, but did not consider love letters. Life is rarely anything similar to what I expect these days.
Not just love notes, there were cards, drawings, and best of all, photographs of my various past lives. The interesting ’80s and ’90s hairstyles and outfits were pictured, along with every boyfriend I had in those two decades. I flipped through, flooded with memories such as a cruise to the Bahamas and trip to Las Vegas that my parents never knew I took. Now they will. Sorry, Mom and Dad. I am glad they survived raising four girls; it could not have been easy.
Some of my relationship choices were considered mistakes by my family and friends. I admit that one or two were odd and even dangerous choices, but if I had not dated those that I did, I would have missed out on some amazing experiences. Many seem like a dream now. I would have never lived on Fire Island, barefoot on the beach for an entire spring and summer season. I wouldn’t have traveled to London and Amsterdam, or have spent six weeks in Key West. I would have never been part of Army life in Clarksville, Tenn.
A few of the experiences were definitely not amazing in the euphoric sense, but were important in the grand scheme of life. They had to be. Take, for example, a terrorist attack with a resulting war that sent my husband to the Middle East, while I lived in the Hamptons opposed to the whole idea.
I expected the trunk full of wedding memorabilia, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I put on the fancy wedding hat, looked at a few of the cards from friends and family, and was thankful to have an attic. “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” I told myself, one of my favorite Scarlett O’Hara lines.
I did take the empty bottle of champagne from our first toast to the recycling center, a trip made to the soundtrack of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” As I drove away from the dump, my iPod randomly landed on my wedding song. One of the men pictured in the box of memories always said that there was a “spiritual D.J.” that sends messages through the stereo. I believe it. He is an example of a guy nobody could understand why I dated.
Over all, positive memories poured from the box, with kind words and professions of love, as well as a picture of a tattoo with my name. Maybe I do want some of that again. Seeing all of the boys in the box together, most of whom I thought were “the one,” confirmed the validity of destiny to me. There is not “one,” not for everyone, anyway. I was in love for a time, and so were they, according to the letters. When the relationships ended, it felt wrong and painful, but the pain went away, and if there were no ends, the others would have never wound up in the box.
Carrie Ann Salvi is a reporter at The Star.