Now we are six

Last page of the poem "Us Two" from PW's mom's childhood copy of A.A. Milne's "Now We Are Six"

When I was first starting to come out to people in the early 1980s, two of the laments that I often heard were that I’d 1) never be able to have children and 2) never be able to get married.  Well, never say never to a Bull Girl.  GForce is closing in on 14, and PW and I are approaching our sixth wedding anniversary.

Truth be told, it took me a long time to figure out how to accomplish both of those things.  I needed massive amounts of patience, help and luck along the way in order to hit the double jackpot at the end of my double rainbow.  Truth be told, I still need massive amounts of patience, help and luck to become both the mom and the wife I want to be.  Simply put, I always want to be better than I am so far at both of those roles.

The other night I was marveling at the unrelenting surprise of getting to be married to PW.  We’ve known each other for more than 21 years, we’ve been together for more than 11 years, and yet I’m still surprised after almost six years of marriage.  Is it a constant state of grace, or an early sign of dementia?!  Anyway, it was the wee hours of the night, so my Bull Brain was doing some pretty goofy maneuvers — things it would never think to try in the light of day.  What I wrote down — in the dark — was that marriage is like being pregnant with a child while you are raising it.  I would never have remembered this thought if I hadn’t been able to decode the scrawl in my bedside notebook, sandwiched between similarly scrawled lines of Lily Tomlin’s character Trudy from her one-woman show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” and a reminder to look something up on the Internet.  I wish I could figure out how to write while I’m sleeping, like Coleridge did.  Alas, I’m not (yet) willing to become an opium addict, so unless I can figure out another way to achieve that, I’m stuck with the adventure of writing blind.  News flash: a friend just told me about a pen that has a light built into it.  My writing blind days may be coming to a merciful end!

But back to that idea of marriage as an exercise in being pregnant with the child you are simultaneously raising.  It seems so much more apt than the metaphor of building a plane while we’re flying it, or of making it all up as we go along, both of which have their moments of truth as applied to the enterprise of marriage.  So much of the growth and development in marriage, or any covenant relationship, happens under the surface, deep in the bones or connective tissue of the covenant itself.  And sometimes it’s possible to see external evidence of this growth and development, but not always.  At least, not for me.

When I was pregnant with GForce, I remember being deeply curious about the baby girl who did her first bit of growing up inside me.   Would she be cute?  Would she have a distinctive personality?  Please, God, could she at least be funny?  I know now that these are all check, check and check.  But as my pregnancy wore on, the whole mystery of this individual who was living inside me but whom I did not know was increasingly preoccupying.  Somewhere around the sixth or seventh month, I dreamed that I got out of bed, went into the bathroom and delivered the baby in a dream-enabled no-muss-no-fuss kind of way, right there on the 50s era pink and black tile floor.  As I sat there looking at her, I felt a deep sense of dream-calm wash over me.  In that same moment, the newborn in my dream looked up at me and said, “See, Mom, everything’s okay!”  Then she crawled back into my body and I went back to bed.  My waking anxiety about who this little sprout was dissipated, probably supplanted by the growing dread of, “Oh my god, this huge thing has to leave my body through THERE?!?!”  But I digress.

Sometimes my marriage is like that dream.  I’ll be chewing on some baffling mystery that’s taking up an increasing amount of space in my Bull Brain, and PW will call to check in, or I’ll come home to a bunch of flowers on the dining room table, or she’ll reach over wordlessly and rest her hand on my leg, and there will be some sort of silent, psychic shift that creates room where there wasn’t any before.  I don’t know how that happens; I just know that when the two of us stick together, as Pooh says above, amazing things happen.  Plus, we both love soup, and we could talk or not talk forever, and still find things to not talk about. To ask for any more than that seems downright greedy.

Today’s musical offering has the benefit of perfect lyrics for a celebration of marriage, plus the whole lovely dynamic of musical improvisation, which is way better than watching the improv of marriage, but which requires a lot of the same skills.  We saw Bobby McFerrin at Symphony Hall in March this year.  Near the end of the show he sat down on the edge of the stage and invited people to come improvise with him, as he does in this video.  One woman came up and did this same song with him.  For all I know, it was the same woman and she just follows him around doing this same song with him in a different city every night.  Whatever the case, it was stunning, and I am so pleased to have found this video.

Oh, and Baby — you’re my centerpiece.  That’s how it is.


20 responses to “Now we are six

  1. Happy Anniversary! What a lovely post.

  2. Ahh. Yes, lovely to read and mazel tov on six years. I’m posting this as I listen to the video, which is almost as good as your writing.

  3. I’m so lucky to have you two as my moms : ) Thank you.

    • Sarah, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is an honor and a delight to be lucky enough to be one of your moms. I love you BIG.

  4. You found a great one there!!! Wish I was so lucky.

  5. barbara howard

    I hope Pop is not your father because I’m going to say that I am so lucky to have you for a daughter and your father for my most beloved and dearest, dearest friend. Every day is a surprise: when we are sitting side by side in the car, wordlessly, and he tells me some crazy joke and we start laughing or when we are playing cards and we are talking about the insanity of the Tea Party or when we are sitting across working on computers at the same time, and the list goes on. Whenever we are together it is all that I need. Thank you for this reminder of how blessed we are that you are our offspring. Thank you for having such an amazing granddaughter. We love you bunches. Mom

    • No, Mom. It’s okay, as I’m sure you already know. Pop is my father-IN-LAW. Thank you for having me so that I could have such a great life. Love, Joy

  6. Richard Howard

    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” so I thank you, Joy, for your posting on–miracles.
    Long ago, miracles to me were wham! bam! magic events bending the laws of nature. But now, with JoyHowie for a daughter, Gforce for a granddaughter, PW for a daughter-in-law, and Sheerah and Lulu for inexplicable life bonuses, a new take on miracles is forming for me.
    Miracles are somewhat akin to the relentless tides massaging the seven continents, surging in, for example, to make the Hudson River run the other way. And then, in a few short hours, the tide retreats, and the Hudson meekly reverses itself.
    JoyHowie, PW & Co., you are a mysterious tide of my existence. I can go several days with but a whisper of awareness of your hourly impact on the flow of my life. Then (miracles), the mysteries of your collective, yet individual, impact turn me around, pointing me in new directions. Yours are the miracles of relentless, nuanced presences, on wings of which my inner life takes on deeper hues of beauty and hope.
    Oh! Those blessed days, when those ebullient troubadors of life energy and wisdom become my centerpiece(s). Being moved by their gentle tides out from my own small center, I can face whatever each today might bring.
    I hope Bobby McFerrin and Anita Vitale keep their song going in public arenas just as penetratingly it has now invaded my mind and heart!
    Here’s to miracles of words and music, illuminating the crooked lines of the life around and within us. Thanks, Joy, and a gloriously happy sixth anniversary to you, PW, and your precious family!

    • Wow Dad. Once again, you & Mom demonstrate that I’m the luckiest girl on the planet, maybe in the whole galaxy! I don’t know what more to say, except thank you for helping to start my life, and thank you for all the ways you continue to help me move through life. Love, Joy

  7. Love this, and you; you may not be my centerpiece, but you’ve definitely got a spot on (or at) our table any time. Happy (early) anniversary!!!

    And speaking of the wonderfulness known as Bobby McFerrin, have you seen this?

    • I’d much rather be at your table than on it! Last time I saw a picture of myself with an apple in my mouth, well, let’s just say it wasn’t a museum quality moment. And yes, I have both seen that video of McFerrin’s demonstration of the pentatonic scale, and I have participated in it. He did an abbreviated version of that at his concert in March. I think you and L&THCK should hie yourselves to a concert of his. Really inspiring stuff. xoxo Joy

  8. This is particularly beautiful and Pooh and Bobby McFerrin are each special and apt. Of course, I loved your wonderful feelings about pregnancy. Thanks!

  9. Fanstastic. And congrats! Not only are the posts faboo, but I can feel the Howard love, familial and SweetP kind even on the periphery as a reader. Enjoy celebrating what you have together. Very happy for you.

  10. Joy, I just love your idea about getting in your own way. I think I do that most of the time!

  11. Loved this, Joy. With my own anniversary approaching (20 years on July 28th), I appreciate the reflections on marriage, and love how you manage to weave a variety of disparate things together.

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