Scenes from a Marriage

One woman’s obsessive, at times comical quest to produce the perfect anniversary present for her parents—a celluloid time machine to take them back to their midcentury past—allows her to see them in a different light

by Mel Miskimen
marriage image
The author’s parents, Marian and Marc Cieslik, as they embark on their 60-year adventure.
Photograph: Courtesy of Mel Miskimen

A few pass plays, then a quick cut and we’re in the backseat of my uncle’s Ford Fairlane station wagon watching my mother, looking rather loopy, as she slowly slides down, down, down the front seat and disappears. The only thing left of her is her hand, draped over the back of the front seat, followed by her giving a thumbs-up as the “Notre Dame Victory March” ends.
And scene. Followed by: 60 years and counting...

Roll credits.

The early reviews? Outstanding! We watched it again. And again. Yeah, it was that good. Of course, my mother had to fill us in on the particulars of that day in the Notre Dame parking lot. Oh, she blamed my uncle and his libations. Said that she was all caught up in the moment and that it was the first and last time she had puked out a car window.

It turned out to be the perfect gift. For me. That summer I spent staring at my computer monitor, watching all those home movies over and over, I got to see my parents for the first time as people—sometimes out of focus, sometimes overexposed, maybe not always in the most flattering outfits or lighting. But I truly loved what I saw.

MEL MISKIMEN is the author of Cop’s Kid: A Milwaukee Memoir. Her mother died shortly before this story went to press.

Next: My Years as a Widow-in-Waiting

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First published in the July/August 2013 issue

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