The weight of the elephant forced the breath from my lungs as it landed on my chest. I wasn't expecting it. The minute I unwrapped it, I was knocked down. It crushed and expelled all of the progress I'd made in not missing him, the family, the damn past. Strange how a tiny moment can seemingly undo healing and hurl us back to the freshly wounded feelings.
Ever since I was a child, I've loved elephants. I've been drawn to them for most of my life. I sat atop one of the giant grey creatures at Lion Country Safari in Florida while visiting my grandparents. The little hairs on the elephant's skin were surprisingly soft, not scratchy. Maybe I imagined sitting on top of Dumbo the Disney elephant as I viewed life from behind unfurling ears. I collected little ceramic, wooden and glass elephant figurines from places I'd traveled. Most of my elephant collection came from exploring distant lands with my husband.
For the past 4 years, the box of elephants has been entombed. Taped shut and tucked away in dark closets. I've not really been certain of where I belong since I moved to a new city to start my new unmarried life. I have too much stuff to qualify as a gypsy, but I've moved 3 times in the last 4 years and for someone who was a nester, it's felt unsettling and exhausting at times, freeing at others.
At first, unwrapping the elephants was pleasurable. A simple journey into past travel memories. But the one that crushed me was from the trip my ex husband and I took to Germany, Italy and Switzerland. On the evening we arrived by train into Venice, I declared my soul had found its way back home as we dragged our suitcases behind us over bumpy Italian pavement to the water taxi.
At that time, my husband still seemed to love me and found my quirks endearing. He knew how much I loved glass art and how much it meant to me that we go to the aisle of Murano to visit the glass blowing museum and studio. It wasn't his first choice, but he was happy to have the adventure together.
The water taxi bobbed over the gently ebbing milky turquoise water and delivered us in front of the Murano Glass Factory. I felt like my inner 8 year-old riding high on top of the Lion Country Safari elephant. I knew I'd find the perfect glass elephant to memorialize our trip.
Vibrant colors swirled in kaleidoscopic patterns and glowed in the afternoon sunlight casting into the otherwise drab factory. I was disappointed to discover though, most of the art pieces produced were clowns. Lot's and lot's of clowns. They filled 6 shelves and came in 3 different sizes. Not one elephant to be found.
We left the glass factory, sans elephant. It became my mission to find the perfect glass elephant elsewhere. My husband was patient with me, even seemed to enjoy my quest as we perused the little shops along the winding maze of narrow stony streets in Venice. He didn't lose his temper, he walked next to me - not 10 paces ahead of me and his eyes seemed to hold me in kindness not contempt. I still wonder when the moment was that it all changed.
When I feel that sense of longing for what was, I remind myself that I've learned nothing lasts forever. I remind myself that people change. I remind myself to release the longing. I remind myself of the person he became. I remind myself that even though the marriage ended in a dark pit of betrayal, harsh words and infidelity, at one time I felt loved by him. I remind myself to trust that was real.