What should be done with them? What do they all mean after the marriage is over?

On the day J told me she wasn't coming home, we were sitting on the back patio at our house. When she left, I sat staring at the backyard for about ten minutes before gathering myself and heading inside. As I walked through the dining room, I paused at the organizer where we put the mail and charged our phones. And I took off my wedding ring.

When I set it down, I imagined a thud worthy of The Lord of the Rings - the sound produced by something far heavier than it appears. The ring sat there for a couple of weeks until I saw J again at the house. I hadn't been wearing mine, but it still tore me up when she walked in without hers.

Her ring that I spent weeks picking out, and she had worn for years, had lost its meaning. It is now just a piece of jewelry and the emotional shine has dimmed or gone out. Mine that refused to keep its shine and gathered nicks and dents from work now sits in a box somewhere.

Normally before I would turn out the lights, I would spin the ring on my finger as a mental trigger that it was time to turn off the brain and welcome sleep. I found myself in the following days absently grabbing my finger and finding it not there. We won't be wearing them, but what do we do with them? Will the rings be stashed in a box, or are they destined to be melted down to produce something new.

And the wedding dress that was so carefully preserved after bringing out her beauty that September day. Does it remain in a box tucked away in storage, or is it even kept? I have watched Project Runway in the past (there, I admitted it). There was an episode last year where divorced women had the designers make new dresses from the material of their wedding gowns. The time the women had been divorced ranged from 14 years to as little as three months. I am sure it was cathartic for most of them to see the dress transformed into something new, but each experience had to be very different, depending on the marriage and time passed. What did the dress mean after 14 years vs 3 months?

And I wonder what happened to the locket I gave her that last Christmas. With pictures of each of us and an inscription of love, it went over like a lead balloon. It can't have much sentimental value for her and I'm sure it has never been worn. It probably has more guilt feelings attached to it than anything else, so it may have been quietly tossed.

As I walked through the house in the days after it ended, I looked over the things we had. What belonged to whom, would there be battles over some things? A lot of it was just stuff. I was fine until I got to the photos.

In typical conflict avoidance, we have postponed going through the photos. They sit in J's storage for now. It will be easier to tackle it when emotions aren't as raw, but it still won't be easy. In my darker moments, I thought "Why would she even want them. She didn't want to be with me, what could the photos possibly mean to her." But I know that isn't fair.

Feelings have already begun to change. These things that represented so much had a painful power to them initially, but that is beginning to diminish. Feelings will continue to change as time passes, but for now most of the things are safely tucked out of sight as we try to begin anew. There they remain until we are strong and mature enough to see them in a new light.

But in the end, what will we keep? Will they stay in some box like letters from high school, or will they be purged from the system to wipe the slate clean? What will remain to be dug out later as evidence that "we" existed? And what will they mean when we come across them? Once talismans with strong emotions attached, will they become artifacts seen wistfully through hazy memory?


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