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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Scenes from a marriage

Never mind the plan. We hoped to greet the guests to our wedding on the front steps of the church but a driving rainstorm kept us inside all day. The rehearsal picnic was not at Dawes Park in Evanston but in the quickly prepared home of family friends. But after that, our wedding celebration went exactly as planned. And an interesting plan it was. I cared not one whit about the reception. It was all ceremony, all music, down to every piece Dagmar played for the prelude, mostly Bach. Claude, Marabeth, Dan, and Charlie (all Facebook friends!)played favorite (and unusual) hymn tunes on recorder. I was mortified later to learn that my father had paid each of them all of five dollars for their work! In 1976, it was all a bit new. We processed to a congregational hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, each of us escorted by both of our parents. There was no giving away the bride -- a novelty at the time. We wrote a brief rite for each set of parents to affirm the marriage. There was no "and obey" in the vows. We wrote our own, also almost unheard of then. These and the service order soon became one of the options for vows included in (then) "modern wedding services" guidebooks. Our theme, if there was one, was engagement in the world, for justice and peace. Steve Elde, also here on Facebook, designed the bulletin cover, based on an unexpected wedding text, of Jesus, the Vine. And the congregation sang, Thou True Vine That Heals the Nations. The wedding was strikingly not about us, at least not about us looking in at each other, but about the world, our commitments to be agents together of change, healing, justice in the world. It was probably the least romantic wedding most folks there had ever attended. All of my energy, and I do mean all of my energy as a bride-to-be went into planning the liturgy, the music, the prayers, the readings. And the vows. We recessed to another congregational hymn and made our way to the church basement for the reception. These were my plans and instructions for the reception: there probably needs to be a cake. And nuts. And Aunt Ruth wanted to bring her special, old-fashioned (even then) mints. I lovingly chose aunts and uncles, cousins and friends to serve the cake and punch and coffee, a big tradition at the time. And that's it. I didn't give a care to decorating, to creating a festive party atmosphere. As far as I was concerned (and Dave, too), the event was over. The church had apologized to us for the ugly appearance of renovation work in the social hall and we said we really didn't care. We didn't. Having our college friends and our family surrounding us was the main issue, and that was immensely gratifying. But we did nothing to entertain or lighten the mood, to create a joyous celebration at the reception. No wonder all of our friends made a quick exit and headed to their favorite downtown Chicago clubs and restaurants for a real evening's entertainment! My first clue that perhaps I had underthought the whole reception thing was when a crowd was finalizing plans for a trip to Gino's for pizza and I found myself really wanting to go along! It was all bread and no circuses. That's the way we were. All about the substance, none about the celebration. I had to fill out a form for my hometown newspaper, in which, in response to their request for a description of my wedding dress I simply wrote, "white." In fact it was a lovely dress and they did a fine job of describing it based upon the accompanying photo. Instead, I detailed the list of music. In many ways, the wedding has set the tone for the marriage. Flexibility in the face of rain and adversity, earnestness to the point of obsession, purposefulness, an astonishing degree of mutuality and respect, lots of beautiful music in our lives but otherwise not so many circuses. That is, not until later. I missed the circuses, so to speak, the out of the box, out of control moments of delight and wonder and hilarity. We were altogether too serious. So we learn, thanks especially to Kaia and Annika! But along the way, the grand new adventure, a 'modern' marriage has proven true. We had an implicit and explicit commitment that both our careers would have equal value and all decisions would be made mutually and with no one's interest automatically trumping the other's. And so it has gone. Going to graduate school together, hyphenating our last name, perhaps the very first in our circle and one of very few anywhere at the time. Moving from one school to another based on mutual needs and desires. Changing 'home' bases altogether, from the Covenant Church we'd been immersed in since birth to the Lutheran Church. Graduating together, setting off on different but compatible, if not disorienting, new adventures. I went off to study in Poland for several months while Dave stayed in Chicago. He chose to work in the non-profit secular world while I continued to prepare for ordination. We supported each other, working to make it easier for the other to pursue their goals. We wandered a bit, always earnest, always focused on goals beyond ourselves. And, I have to say, we were one hell of a partnership. I can not imagine how anyone could be more supportive of my hopes and goals than Dave. And I sense he would say the same. We made a few difficult decisions and were not always sure at the time they were the right ones but then, in hindsight, we found the upside everytime. We rather regretted leaving Princeton to return to Chicago but then, if we hadn't, we likely wouldn't have ended up in the Lutheran Church, at least not until much later and after a lot more professional frustration. That opened doors we could not have imagined. Even as it closed others. So, in the long run, no regrets. Dave moved into a new profession, taking a chance on an unknown career path and has prospered, thrived! He is easily, arguably one of the very best in the country at what he does. I dare you to find someone better. Seriously. (No gratuitious praise from me.) Meanwhile, he has graciously balanced his commitments to sharing equally in the responsibilities of caring for our home and then, happily, our daughters. He was never afraid of my using the "F" word (that would be feminist) not only for me but for himself. He has never, not once, made the assumption that his work, his career, his needs were more significant than mine. I believe the same is true for me. Ten years ago we moved here, to suburban Denver, after twenty productive and happy, successful years of professional life in Chicago. During those years, I managed to be the one more responsible for the house, the girls, our family life. But not because he presumed I should, rather, it was a conscious division of attention that both of us, each of us wanted at the time. Then, in a major switch, he moved, some would say "followed" me here, so that I could take on an exceptional challenge that made sense at that point in my professional career. He became the primary stay-at-home parent, working from a home office, part-time, and never did the girls lack for attention, help, and all the love they needed. I fell into an 80-hour work week and he kept life sane and functional at home. He supported me unfailingly, and became the rock I counted on for daily support. As things fell apart at the church, he sheltered me from the worst of the storms and was tireless in caring for the girls while I gradually, then finally, catastrophically, became undone. In the end, he helped to protect me as much as one could even though, in the end, no one could've protected me from the worst. Frankly, no one could have predicted the worst as it unfolded in the final months of 2002. In these past several years, Dave has been more gracious than I could ever imagine in promoting my recovery and well-being. All the while carrying on with his commitment to caring for the girls and our home. It has got to the point that, while no one could wish for the horrors we all experienced while I served as pastor at Holy Trinity, we have all found the good, the growth, the generative energy that has come from this time since. It was all such a vast unknown 34 years ago. We had no idea. If anything, we had some different visions for our future. Not all has gone well. Not all has been wonderful. As with anything, there are regrets that are just, and only, that: regrets. Some of our failures can be remedied and redeemed. Some not, that's just the way life is. "You learn. You live, you learn. You lose, you learn. You love, you learn." The one thing we have no trouble affirming, that our daughters are the greatest gift we've given one another, and the world. Those are the scenes from this marriage that have brought the most fulfillment, delight, and hilarity to us. So we spent this anniversary with them last night. First, the breathtaking John Adams' composition, The Transmigration of the Souls, and then Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at our world class Colorado Symphony Orchestra. How very very cool that we all love to enjoy that music together. (Which is not to say that Kaia wasn't also checking on the Rockies baseball game during intermission, Annika was making plans via text for today, and I checked my email.) Then, a nightcap at Racine's. And there was no end to the hilarity around the table. To say nothing of the drive home. We somehow got hooked on singing the Veggie Tales songs, the Silly Songs with Larry. "Not everyone has a water buffalo... Where's my water buffalo?" We are a really fun team, goofy, ridiculous, silly, and also kind. I'm not sure the girls know yet how good it is but we trust that, in time, they will look back, too, and see how special this is. The scenes from this marriage don't resemble Bergman's vision. Thank God. They are not all happy, not all good, but ultimately they are generative and, given everything, really rather remarkable. Thanks everyone for being there for us way back then, putting up with our rather smug earnestness and our cluelessness about throwing a good party, and thanks to all who entered our lives, for being with us all along the way. Thanks Kaia and Annika for all the joy you've given us. And thanks, Dave, for everything.

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