The Wedding Cake Topper

It is just amazing how many things you accumulate in a lifetime: children’s drawings, pasta necklaces,  college notebooks, awards, scrapbooks.  They’re put lovingly into dresser drawers (where they inevitably get pushed to the back), or into boxes on the top shelves of closets. They are the artifacts that we hang onto because we want to remember.

I think many of us are loath to throw things away because, at the decisive moment to keep or not to keep,  we can’t really decide on something’s worth to us in the future.  Maybe our grandchildren someday will want it.  Or maybe it will be valuable someday. Or maybe it will help us remember that person or experience.  At that moment, we have decided to not make a decision.

I had set mid-January as my target moving date.  Since I was also hosting the family Thanksgiving, I decided to wait until Black Friday to start my serious downsizing campaign.  After all, there was no way the contents of a 3,000 square foot house could fit into a 1,600 square foot Manhattan apartment with limited closet space.  I thought there was some irony in my starting on that Friday after Thanksgiving.  As most people were bulking up with possessions, I would be trimming down.

If you are reading this and have ever engaged in this process, you know it is both emotionally and physically exhausting.  On the emotional level are the constant decisions you need to make about whether what you’re looking at has a future for you or someone else you care about.  If not,  you have to then decide whether a charity might want it or whether it needs to be trashed.   Then there is the physical labor involved in actually hauling away heavy trash bags, collapsed boxes, or stacking other boxes that you may want to move or store.   I am 65, and reasonably fit.  I had many thoughts during these daily pruning efforts but one kept coming back.  I wondered how people much older than I am managed to do this without constant help.

One of my first forays was into a closet on the 3rd floor next to the master bedroom.  My husband’s sweaters were still on a shelf  (as were all of his other clothes in a bedroom closet and dresser). On the top shelf was a brown carton. I got onto a stepladder and pulled it down.  At some time in the distant past, I stuck it up there and had written “Wedding Memorabilia” in black magic marker on top.

What I found as I excavated the time capsule of this box was the  cake topper from our wedding, a luncheon for 50 at the Waldorf Astoria in mid-September 1968. I carefully liberated the occupants: a bride and groom smiling under a styrofoam wedding bell, framed by an arch of artificial flowers.  Some dried frosting from the cake had possibly stuck to the groom’s left eyebrow.

My first thought as I stared transfixed by the plastic groom was that he had lasted longer than the actual groom, who died during heart surgery.  My second thought was, “What should I do with this?”  I thought  of the amount of closet space I had in the new apartment and how this memento from our wedding would not have the same emotional resonance for our son and daughter as their own wedding cake toppers. I reached for the black trash bag, closed my eyes and stuck the topper in.  Somehow closing my eyes just made it easier.