During the first week of August Cliff and I celebrate three wedding anniversaries, our son and daughter and their spouses along with our own. Our children are beginners at marriage (sort of), but for us it’s # 47, three years away from golden.
Our romance was of the “Some Enchanted Evening” sort, recounted in an earlier blog post which near the end merely hints of conflict to come. In the beginning, there was the clash of cultures: a high-energy, pioneer-type from the Pacific Northwest marries a Mennonite school teacher from southeastern Pennsylvania. As my mother-in-law said on our wedding day, “You two will have a lot of adjustments to make.” I knew that was true in my head but naively imagined of course we will be the exception: Doesn’t love conquer all?
Because of Cliff’s career, we settled in Jacksonville as newyweds, a city with a semi-tropical climate and an overwhelming expressway system–a far cry from the gentle, rolling hills and farmlands of Lancaster County; Southern accents, not lilting Pennsylvania lingo. Our adventures included both the typical and the unconventional: Living in a 8’ x 24’ foot travel trailer for a year and a half with a two-year-old daughter and baby son. Starting a fledgling graphic arts business in our home where we experienced both feast and famine. A miscarriage. Working on graduate degrees while raising a family. Long separations as Cliff traveled the country with his own art show. The deaths of Cliff’s mother and my father. And other unwelcome events: a mammoth falling oak just grazing the side of our house, the dining room ceiling becoming a sieve as the roof leaked, my new car totaled putting my back out of whack. Larkin Warren in her vignette “Because love grows deeper over time” illustrates her own version of marital challenge:
In the early days it was all about him. His favorite foods . . . . favorite flavor of ice cream, and whether he liked my hair up or down. I loved to make him laugh, and worked hard not to cry in front of him. I cleaned my house before he came over, always wore mascara, always had champagne in the fridge.
[But] we’ve seen each other at our worst, and that’s not an exaggeration. Physically ill, emotionally grief-stunned, job-panicked, or angry enough to throw crockery at the wall . . . . Red-faced, blotchy, hoarse from yelling. Our parents grow old, and ill, or nutty: our children make mistakes that drop us to our knees. Through it all, how on earth can he love me, given what a flawed, messy, moody person I am: The artifice is long gone; he see me.
Yes, the artifice is gone. The scales, if there were any, have long since fallen from our eyes. In retrospect, we see clearly now. But we remember beholding the luster of un-tested love, the gritty struggles mingled with the shiny penny days. “We have seen it from both sides now,” says poet E. J. Mudd:
Adam Gopnik adds metaphorical wisdom: Love, like light is a thing that is enacted better than defined: we know it afterward by the traces it leaves on paper.
Dear reader, your traces on the “paper” of this post are welcome. Thanks for commenting. You may also enjoy reading secrets of a 20-year-marriage @ http://notquiteamishliving.com/2014/07/twenty-years-three-things-about-love-n-marriage/
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One of the beloved members of our family has gone home to be with the Lord this week. Following the publication of this edition, postings on this blog will be suspended for a time.