It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life…
I have questioned myself on this. We have so much stuff. I used to feel guilty when I would pack so many things to travel. Why do I take so much? Everyone seemed to have smaller suitcases than me. Yet it seemed I needed each item. Whenever I attempted to pack light, I found myself frustrated or unprepared in the moments that followed. So now life, with our accumulations. We moved from a strange, albeit spacious, dogtrot home to overflowing a three bedroom 1980’s home to nicely filling a four-bedroom with intelligent storage design. So many things! Do we have too much? It seems ridiculous to rid ourselves of many of these things since we will likely need them again within a few years (bassinet, changing table). So we needed more space.
The oyster has fought to have that place on the rock to which it has fitted itself perfectly and to which it clings tenaciously. So most couples in the growing years of marriage struggle to achieve a place in the world. It is a physical and material battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society.
It does feel like a fight. We move and move and though we have our friendships, and love those friends from before our marriage, to find our way of life is another story. It is good to have old friends. But we need friends here, in our town, on our street, in our parish. For goodness sakes, we need a parish. And living for the first time in town (we won’t count Washington D.C.’s surrounding towns), we want a parish less than 25 minutes away. We’re drawn again and again to a parish we did not expect to pursue. Talking with neighbors. Blessed to have two families next to us who are faithful and traditional Christians. We’re ever searching for those families with whom we can foster friendships. In Virginia, we knew them before they were married, now they are married and we live far away. The women with whom I read this book are examples, if space does not distance us than the hectic pace of life distances us. So we keep working to find those friendships and that place within our community.
The battle for children? I shudder to think. Yes, we fought. We fought in our hearts time and again: fought to grieve, fought to accept, fought to open our hearts to the strangeness of God’s plan, fought to survive the fear that the baby would never be born. Yes, we have fought. I see my heart bloodied and in agony whenever I visit the cemetery. And I remember crying out in sorrow, kneeling, rocking on the ground on All Souls’ Day before that grave, 9 months pregnant with another child. We have fought. It says just “Baby Casey” because there never seems to be enough money to buy the tombstone.
The material battle? And what was this battle? My husband’s search for work, year after year, to find his calling. All that time it was right before him, but we were afraid to trust. We were afraid to accept the lesser income in order for him to find the great happiness of his calling. But we did accept it. I work part-time so he can build the number of students he teaches. He feels wonderful because he provides, he is valued and he contributes something that only he can contribute.
For, in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward…Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base.
We continue to work. This is something we always knew. When we dated, in friendship we faced the same God with different devotions but the same desire for holiness. Now we have hardly any shreds of that life of devotion, but we are working, are pushing outward to make some success of the life we’ve been given.
Here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.
For some reason I consider often if one of us died. I think it is because I cannot imagine such a life. We are so bound together. It felt the first child was our first bond.
The web is fashioned of love. Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship.
I think there never could have been a more romantic love…
It is made of loyalties: I stand by him, and he to me. It is wonderful to praise him and embarrass him…
Interdependencies: He does not do dishes or laundry. I do not repair machinery, kill spiders or give bathes to children. We can do the things we never do, but we choose not to. I don’t crave independence. It is wonderful to need him.
Shared experiences: the Beetlejuice house, our honeymoon, Jamestown, biking riding to wineries for tasting, Virginia, the Christmas Attic…what a fabric they form, all complete with their inside jokes and catch-phrases.
Memories of meetings and conflicts: Thank God the sting of those conflicts fade, but I remember them. I can remember them and think I’m grateful they passed. I’m grateful we are not the same people, even yesterday, that we are today.
Triumphs and disappointments: job interview, no call, job opportunity, no interview…
Communication, a common language, acceptance of lack of language: We know what works and what doesn’t work…the use of a look, a phrase, a sigh, the phrase, “I know you didn’t mean to, you are the best intentioned person in the world…”
Knowledge of likes and dislikes: He thinks if he really likes it than I must not like it.
Habits and reactions, both physical and mental: He says things to get a rise out of me, he acts as though he is burdened to hang shelves or pictures just so I will dote on him with gratitude, or act ridiculously bashful as I request a favor.
The bond of romance…leaps across all of them, like a rainbow—or a glance…
If that fragile link is snapped in the storm, what will hold the halves to each other?
We would have nothing! It is so much these details, these little moments and habits, as she says, that bind us together. Otherwise, these children would undo us!
Will we ever return? Will it ever be just us again, a little peace?
One has grown too big, too many-sided for that rigidly symmetrical shell.
No, it can never be again. We are not the same person as we were before. Our hearts are too large. I have no idea what the future holds. The second have of the chapter meant much less to me, because the first described so deeply my current experience. But what she writes is beautiful. I’m sure the future will be beautiful. How amazing that God created this web of bonds that I might have someone to share it with!