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My mother was wearing the dress that I used to try on when I wanted to pretend I was a princess straight out of a storybook, while my father wore the smile that he reserved for special occasions like good test grades and family vacations to our cabin in Vermont. Together, my parents looked like one of those couples you see on TV: two impossibly pretty people with straight teeth and sparkling eyes, smiling their broadest smiles as if they’re advertising something. They were. Their wedding was featured in a magazine.



This was my father’s second marriage, although nobody knew that at the time except his crisp, white bow tie, whose only previous memory was its wearer’s first wedding. It did not understand who this woman was because the last one had worn the same expression, wrapped in a white dress. We all wish it’d spoken up. By the time my mother found out that he had had another wife, that bow tie had long since been donated to Goodwill and used in more male trickery.



My mother was looking at my father, but my father was looking right through her, as if whoever was standing behind her held the secrets to the universe. The woman standing behind her was in fact his soon-to-be third wife, my mother’s best friend. My poor parents, doomed from their first photograph. It will never grow to be sepia.



Their worries on that day were floral arrangements and the dinner menu. My mother would say, “Nothing decorative, nothing beautiful,” while my father preferred the mantra, “As long as there’s French fries, I’m happy.” She was too fancy, too fussy for him, the man who craved sweatpants more than fancy ceremonies, held for the benefit of the photographs. His fantasies were better suited for an Emma than a Chrysanthemum.



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