blended families · divorce · friends · husbands · intentional happiness · marriage

Prickly Pear Guestbook

“I am twice married but not a bigamist.”

For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying on different ways to say that my children’s dad and I are divorced and that I’ve since remarried but say it in a way that lays clear there’s no villain in the narrative. I don’t like saying “second marriage” or “second husband,” partly because it makes my spouse–someone I have known for 30 of my 50 years on this planet–seem like a comfortable caftan I’ve resorted to wearing after spilling something on my favorite dress. Or is a functional donut spare tire that will do the trick. Or he’s the Michael Gambon of Dumbledores, an insult in my book.

It’s also that I do not wish to portray myself as a bag of leftovers, a treat consumed at a late hour by someone who wasn’t at the main event but finally got the munchies. Even if it’s the kind of leftovers cradled inside shiny foil squeezed and bent to look like a swan, I would prefer a nicer impression. I don’t know why I care. Branding? Vanity? Neurosis? Protectionism?

Anyway, I got married for the second time a little over two years ago, which was about eight months after we’d intended, thanks to COVID-19. We were tired of waiting for health departments to decide when we should tie the knot but didn’t want anyone to croak in the name of our nuptials. Once vaccines debuted, we gathered up our immediate family and a very tiny group of our close friends, and we tied the knot in an old adobe chapel in an historic part of town. I live in Tucson, and unlike many others here, I don’t think it’s the most beautiful place you’ll ever see, but I do really love me some pretty prickly pears, saguaros, and desert blooms. And I’m an Arizona girl, born and bred. That’s what gave me the idea for this unusual guestbook that, unlike most wedding guestbooks, isn’t tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The guestbook is comprised not of signatures but of the thumbprints of each of our guests. My mom sketched out the start of the prickly pear plant in light pencil. Then I left a little inkpad out next to the paper at the entrance to the chapel along with instructions for people to add their thumbprints to the sketch. My mom later went in and used watercolor pencils to shade them a bit and turn the cluster into this beautiful little piece of art that now graces our foyer. It is matted and displayed inside a double-window picture frame that also includes a group photo with all of our guests, and it still gives me JOY.

Not pictured: One giant thumbprint nowhere near the plant, presumably left by one of the handful of men in attendance, but we were easily able to cover that up during matting and framing. I won’t name names here, because I really love my father-in-law to pieces