It was technically “only a piece of paper”
But the loss of that paper has haunted me often over the years.
Yesterday, it happened again: another reminder of a single act of carelessness committed over 20 years ago. Yet, undeniably inescapable.
Before I tell you too much, let me begin by saying that my husband Sergei is a very good man, and one of the smartest things I have ever done was to marry him. But we married in a hurry. Circumstances in both his family-of-origin and mine were such that a big church-wedding was not practical, and we decided to simply show up at the preacher’s office, wedding license in hand, and announce our plans to marry.
And we got married right there in the preacher’s office, without telling anyone who didn’t need to know until the deed was done, signed, sealed, and carefully filed.
A few short days later, needing to take care of the official, legal business that came with marrying and changing my name, my new husband and I packed up our few official documents—including the beautiful wedding certificate—and drove around town, taking care of business.
Afterward, it was time to put our documents away for safe keeping.
To my extreme horror—which has never faded—we discovered that we had mislaid our marriage certificate. Numerous frantic phone calls and conversations with everyone we knew yielded no results, and to this day, the AWOL paper has never returned.
Without fail, two of three times a year during our first years of marriage, I tore the house apart, carefully eyeballing and filing every single piece of paper I came across, hoping, praying desperately, that our wedding certificate could be found, but it never was.
After several years of this, I broke down and called the office of the county clerk where we were married, asking them for a new copy of our wedding certificate, only to be told, “But you have the original!”
I wanted to shake the woman on the other end of the phone and ask her why in the world she thought I would be taking the trouble to call her if I still had my original wedding certificate. Several frustrating minutes later, she agreed to mail us an official piece of paper, stating that our marriage had been officially filed with the state, and I carefully put it in a very safe place.
Where I thought I could find it again. But it seems to have followed the example of the first piece of paper, and gone underground.
So, I have a bit of advice for anyone thinking of marrying in haste: Don’t do it.
Give yourself an hour to think about what you’re doing. During that time, you can march yourself over to the office supply store and purchase a locking file box, or even a safe, into which you can safely keep the one piece of paper that will define your forever.
And after you are officially married, and all the paperwork is completed, you can then return to the office supply store, make multiple copies of your marriage certificate, laminate several of these, then frame the original. If you need to take the marriage certificate anywhere, just keep it in the frame! It’s much harder to lose an important document when it’s in a beautiful frame.
If I could go back to only one time in my life and change one mistake, this would be the one I would change. I’d make multiple copies of my wedding certificate, laminate several, and frame the original, which I would guard with my life whenever taking it to make changes at the banks and social security offices. And that’s my true confession for this week.