Pandora’s Envelope

It looked like nothing special really.  A plain brown 13″ x 9″ envelope.  It sat tucked in a file drawer for two years, its brown frame slightly larger than the file folder which contained it.  Over time, the edges grew a little worn, but the clasp stayed sealed tight.  I didn’t think of it often, but when I would open the drawer, it sat there taunting me.  Haunting me.

It looked like nothing special really.  But it was.  That plain envelope contained a few sample images of my former life, pictures and memories I had not faced in years. I had imbued the images within with power, talismans of a former life. I didn’t know what the consequences would be for breaking that seal.  I feared the pictures would act like horcruxes, their sum total assembling into some great evil.

Last year, I was finally ready to find out what would happen when I broke the seal.

I made the preparations.  Secluded outdoor table at a coffee shop? Check.  Dark sunglasses to hide the tears? Check.  Journal and pen ready?  Check.  Bravery?  Check, I guess. I began to pull the pictures and letters out one at a time, recording my memories and reactions.

My ex’s first car was a ’56 Chevy.  It was a noble, yet fickle beast.  He had to carry entire flats of oil in the trunk so that he could top it off every 100 miles or so.  In this picture, we were redoing the upholstery while parked in my mom’s driveway.  The older man next door always came out when the Chevy was in the driveway and he would share memories of his 20s, when he owned the same car.

This picture was the only one that actually brought tears to my eyes.  This was Max, our Wonderpug.  We got her shortly after we moved in together and she quickly became an integral part of our family.  She was so full of spunk and spirit. We would take her camping, hiking, and swimming, earning her the title, “All Terrain Pug.”

When I found myself suddenly alone and adrift, I was completely unable to care for any my dogs physically, emotionally, or financially.  Friends and family helped to find homes for all three of them.  Giving them away was the most painful part of the entire divorce, but I had to do what was best for them.  Max was the hardest to place, as she was elderly and in failing health.  One of the amazing volunteers at Southeast Pug Rescue personally took her in and gave her a wonderful home in which to spend her remaining years.  Here come the tears again…

A family portrait with an adult Max.

We had an unorthodox wedding.  We were married on the beach in Vero Beach, FL.  The only attendees were the minister (a gay Methodist minister who looked like David Lee Roth and threatened to marry us while wearing a speedo) and the photographer, who actually worked for the newspaper.  We both cried when reciting our vows, trembling with emotion.  As soon as the ceremony was over, we removed our shoes and walked along the beach for miles.

We honeymooned on a Windjammer cruise.  Apparently I though short-alls were the height of Caribbean fashion.

It was strange seeing him in these photos.  His face no longer seemed familiar to me.  What stood out was one picture where you could see a mole on his neck.  That image, not his face, brought memories rushing back: the feel of his hands, the texture of his chin, the smell of his hair.  I examined all his images, looking for emotion.  Looking to see if his love was real.  Comparing the pictures of him then to his more recent mugshot.  It’s not the same man.

Strangely, the wedding pictures did not bring sadness.  Just a disconnected sort of reminiscence.

Not long after we were married, we bought our house.  This began 10 years of remodeling projects as we worked to make it our own.  We always worked so well together.

This was the last picture I pulled from the envelope: my cat looking out my old dining room window at the activity in the garden.  That cat is all that I still have with me from all these pictures.

The past only has power if we allow it to. By keeping those pictures hidden for so long, I built them up in my mind and made them into more than they really are. Now they they have been released from the envelope, I find  that they have also been released from my thoughts.

I only have a few pictures with me.  Most of them, along with other memories, are in a sealed  box in my mother’s attic across the country.  I’m no longer afraid to open this Pandora’s box; I know I can handle what comes out of it.


20 thoughts on “Pandora’s Envelope

  1. It is a strange feeling that envelopes your heart and mind when you look through photos of the past and of the person who caused so much grief and anguish. I too have a huge pandora’s box which I look through sometimes to check how far I have come in my journey of healing. The last time I checked, I just felt a pang of anger and also confidence at how much I have achieved since then, professionally and also personally.

  2. I have a folder too. It’s a folder on my hard drive with hundreds of photos. I’m not ready yet but I am so thankful that you wrote this. When the time comes I will read this again. As always, much love to you.

  3. Beautifully written, because of your honesty and your ability to truly look at your own feelings and memories. So many of us have been in similar situations, thanks for sharing.

  4. It’s hard for me to look at photos of my life with my husband that were taken during the 7 years he was being unfaithful. I’ve taken all of them down in my house. Every once in awhile I’ll come across one on my Mac when I’m careless about going into my file system. I’d like to get rid of them all but I don’t think my kids would appreciate it.

    1. That is tricky with kids. I resisted the urge to destroy all the pictures. Although I now know that he was living another life in some, they still capture a 16 year span of my life. I refuse to simply throw that away. I’ve reached kind of a truce with the past. I look at with the memories of that time, when I did not know of his deceptions, rather than see it with the knowing eyes of today.

  5. You were very brave. I admire your honesty — envy it, even — when dealing with your past memories. It’s like you’re beyond the triggers. Very cool. 🙂

  6. Yes, i have started to look at my photographs as well. My ex wants copies and I either do the copying, or he wants half. I decided that I would copy. About a month ago I had a terrible Saturday as I started and thought that I would never be able to do it. Then after picking up a link on another blog for some unknown reason I played ‘Let It Be’ by the Beatles over and over and over. The next day, i was able to look at them. . It does not hurt quite so much, and I am looking back with fondness of the times we had with the children. .

  7. I think that a lot of life can be spent looking back with regret. I think you have a positive attitude where you can look with a sense of nostalgia and some sadness, but you also have shown you can keep moving forward. This is so important to pass on to the ones still stuck in the “not able to disconnect” stage or the “not feeling anything” stage. Your words will bring comfort in a way you will never know. Thank you!

    1. Thanks:) My goal was to get to that point. I didn’t want to pretend as though that huge piece of my life never occurred, but I also didn’t want to linger in the past. I think I did the smart thing by avoiding the pictures until I could face them without falling in.

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