It all starts with a Wedding, that’s what I say. When I get an invitation to someone’s ‘Marriage’ I have this strong urge to call them up to correct their grammer, or is it grammar……….. because the wedding is the bit when you make impossible vows and completely believe in them, and the marriage is the rest of your life together. So not the same thing.
These vows are written in stone, or so you think at the time. They also ask of you more than will ever be asked of you in any other part of your life. What seemed like an uphill struggle before, when you were free and single, evanesce as you face the stark and solid truth that the old mother-in-law has the upper hand and, what’s more, always will. Now that I am one myself, I feel very unsure of myself at times, and rightly so. The old type of mother in law was comfortably certain of her place on the family throne, whereas we unsure ones watched them from the servants gallery and vowed we would never be like them. Well, mostly we are achieving just that, and, in doing so, in approaching with more tact we are making new mistakes. It is the way of things.
I don’t remember if I promised to obey or not, but what laughs me a lot, is that it matters one way or the other. The animated discussions I have overheard concerning which words are left out and which put in to a wedding ceremony adds a value that most certainly dilutes in time. I suppose in the olden days, if someone didn’t obey or honour or cherish and it was brought to the Judgement Mound and proclaimed before the Wise Men, and if it was found to be true, due punishment would have been administered, its legacy, shame. Nowadays, the Judgement Mounds are covered with heather and bluebells, their ancient role all but forgotten.
After the fluffery wuffery of the wedding, and the first halcyon days of playing house, the serious business of life clicks in. We put away the wedding dress and don the apron. It’s not a bad, but a good thing, because scrubbing a floor in a wedding dress is asking for trouble. So, we move on into our new days, we two people who have made the biggest decision of our lives. No maps are handed out. We will now sail into uncharted waters, learning from each other and working day by day to weave a new cloth from the colours each one brought to the mix, very different colours, different histories, different understanding of light and dark, texture and balance, give and take, up and down. Who will lead and who will follow? Who will let go and who will hold on. Who thinks of solutions and who chews over the disaster? None of this has really been revealed as yet for neither of us have stood the test, not yet. Falling in love is a momentary thing. Staying there, when things begin to annoy and upset, letting them take their place in the weaving of the cloth when all you want to see are the vibrant colours of joy and happiness, is quite another. The trick is to let that happen without feeling a sense of loss. The trick is not to imagine this woman is trying to mother me, when she shouts at me for sock-dropping, or that this man is trying to control and contain me, when he challenges the cut of my dress The trick is, the trick is………
The goodly thing about Goodly Life is that it keeps waking us up each morning with birdsong or Chris Evans or the dooby doo of an alarm clock, or a baby’s wail, or that eerie silence that tells you it snowed overnight. We keep waking, we keep feeling hungry, needing a walk, a cup of tea, a chat with a friend. Our brains must plan school mornings, bus time-tables, train schedules and packed lunch boxes. This is it, this is life and this, shared, keeps us moving through our daily rounds, bumping into each other, working out the best way to do this or not do that, until gradually we weave ourselves into one cloth.
If any of us knew what lay ahead, we might never begin. How we learn to deal with whatever comes along, is all in the strength of that cloth, the warp and weft of it, the necessary tension, the edging. When storms prevail and loud black clouds hang overhead all packed with lightning flash and cold wet rain, we can use this cloth for shelter and warmth, but it will only give back what we have woven into it. The history we make together is not solely of our own pasts, but it is a new thing. We bring in children, carving their histories out for them, at least, in the very beginning. Each of us is a new creature, with unique quirks and gifts, thoughts and concerns. Each one of us sees a thing differently, even if we mostly agree on the image it creates in our minds. However, there is one thing I have found to be almost universal, and that is the instant and unconditional love a parent feels for their child. I know life can sour a relationship, but after the angry words are spoken and the protection in place, I still believe this love surpasses all other loves, and it never fails to astonish on first encounter. I remember it each time a babe was born from me, that however scared I may have been of dangers unknown, I knew I would protect this child’s life with my own, and I still would.
At this end of a verrrrrry long marriage, there is a very colourful cloth around us, five colourful children and their families. Nobody could say we quietly got on with our lives together, obeying the rules, but, instead, raved against the wrongs, laughed and lived wildly, generously, and mostly in complete chaos. On this day, we look at each other and we both marvel. How on earth we managed, against all the odds, to be celebrating 43 years together, even all ‘vowed up’, is a mystery, and not just to us.