Lucky Seven

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

Note: I posted a lot of this last year under the title “Now we are six” for PW’s and my sixth anniversary, but I’ve made a few changes for Lucky Seven.

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 15, and PW and I are celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary today.

Truth be told, it took me a long time to figure out how to get here, and like so much of life, some of the getting here happened while I was headed in the wrong direction.  I have needed massive amounts of patience, help, and luck along the way in order to hit this double jackpot at the end of my double rainbow. 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.

I often marvel at the unrelenting surprise of getting to be married to PW. “Thanks for being married to me” is something we say to each other a lot. We’ve known each other for more than 22 years, we’ve been together for more than 12 years, and yet I continue to feel surprised after seven years of marriage.  Is it a constant state of grace, or an early sign of dementia?! Maybe there are cases where there’s no difference between the two and maybe this is one of them.

In the wee hours of the night, my Bull Brain is prone to some pretty goofy maneuvers — things I’d never let it try in the light of day.  What I wrote down some time last year — 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. [Last year after the “Now we are six” post, a childhood friend mailed me a pen that has a light at the end of it. No more writing in the dark! Thank you, Saundra, for helping to light my way.]

The idea of marriage as an exercise in being pregnant with the child you are simultaneously raising seems so much more appropriate to me 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 space 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 is an interesting twist on the traditional love song, as one might expect from the singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith. I was first introduced to the song “Hard Bargain” on Emmylou Harris’ album of the same name, which was released earlier this year, so I’m using a video of one of her performances. “Hard Bargain” seems like the perfect love song to celebrate the seventh birthday of our marriage. The line “How’s a girl supposed to fail/with someone like you around?” really says it all.

Thanks for driving such a hard – and beautiful – bargain, baby.

Lyrics to “Hard Bargain” by Ron Sexsmith

I’m a bit run down, but I’m okay
I just feel like calling it a day
But you send me back to the start
You drive a hard bargain

Each time I’m heading for nowhere
Doomed and determined to go there
It seems I never get far
‘Cos you drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain

How’s a girl supposed to fail
With someone like you around?
I’ve tried and tried to no avail
You just can’t seem to let me down
You drive a hard bargain

How’s a girl supposed to fail
With someone like you around?
I’ve tried and tried to no avail
You just can’t seem to let me down
You drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain

So I’ll keep on playing that old song
‘Cos for all I know it’s where I belong
When the world is breaking my heart
You drive a hard bargain

You send me back to the start
You drive a hard bargain
You drive a hard bargain
I’m a bit run down, but I’m okay


23 responses to “Lucky Seven

  1. Lovely. And the happiest of anniversaries to you and PW, with wishes for many more to come!

  2. Oh, lord, we laughed, we cried. I read this piece aloud to those gathered for breakfast here in the Berkshires. My niece is impatienty awaiting the birth of her first kid, and my sister-in-law reports that one of this morning’s readings at the local RC church was the Romans passage about groaning in labor. We’re hoping that between you and Romans, something will spur the beginning of the birth process. The clip from Best in Show nearly destroyed us. It’s easier to be patient waiting for the next Crooked LIne when they’re this good. Love to you and PW and GForce. Happy Anniversary and many, many more. JO

    • Thank you, Jaylyn. We miss you over here on the East Coast of the Commonwealth. For your niece’s sake, I hope that baby drops soon!

      Jennifer Coolidge is such a brilliant comedian. She has so many scenes in “Best in Show” that are sidesplittingly funny. I love the one at the concession stand where she orders “a bucket of popcorn, half butter, half salt.”

      xoxo J

  3. This is beautifully lived and said, dear Joy. It’s a keeper. and I thank you. I resonate with much of it. The part that jumped out was about creating space where there had not been any. We have experienced a lot of that lately around here, and it helps me breathe in and out. Pretty basic. We are well along in our 50th year together and the growth, the surprises, the sanctuary continue.

    May love continue to surround you and PW. Mine certainly does. I’m grateful you are both in my life, and I wish you well with all my heart.

  4. All of the O’Sullivan women love and miss you. I cannot believe seven years have flown by! 2004 was a very eventful year.May your lives continue to be filled with love, grace, and all good things.

  5. instant share. You continue to blow me away. Happy, funny, smiley,
    remembery, dreamy huggy anniversary.

  6. Dear Joy, how lucky I am to know you! I love your writing. I can’t believe your youngest daughter’s 15! Happy 7th Anniversary — also amazing because just a day or so ago, I remember you, polling a number of colleagues on the make-your-own-sundae wedding idea.

    Pat & I have known each other for >20 years; have been together for 19 years; and legally married for eight days. I love the sneak-preview through your relationship of all that we have to look forward to. Amazing how we really do feel like newly-weds, but with the benefit of knowing so many of our quirks and lovable traits already…and I have faith that there are more to discover in the coming decades.

    My mom brought Pat’s & my wedding announcement from the paper with her to her Senior lunch at the Jewish Center and showed it around to her table-mates. One of them, a man, bought her lunch that day for the first time, and there might be something blooming, maybe. My mom’s 85 and he’s 89. How great would it be if Pat’s & my marriage inspired further companionship….

    • Sarah, I’m sure Pat’s and your relationship and marriage has already inspired many companionships, including PW’s and mine. I’m so happy for you, and grateful for the ripples that you and Pat continually send out into the multiverse.

  7. That was an absolutely wonderful, perfect post. A very happy anniversary to both of you.

  8. Love! Happy best-ever anniversary Joy and PW.

  9. barbara howard

    The years have flown since that beautiful day of coveantng. What a blessing you, Pam and the young women are to us. It’s true about amazing things happening “when the two of us stick together” as your dad and I can affirm. I love the song “My Cup Runneth Over” from the Broadway music, “I Do, I Do,” reminding us that “sometimes in the morning where shadows are deep, I lie here beside you just watching you sleep. And, then in that moment with sunlight above, my cup runneth over with love.” There are those moments in that sacred space when one’s heart can almost burst with gratitude. You two are evidence of that overflowing cup of love.

    • Mama, I have many memories of you singing snippets of that song. Thanks for your inspirational example of the power of, as your mother called it, “stickability.”

  10. Richard Howard

    What a magnificent post! And what a magnificent family you two continue to nurture in the bonds of unconditional love! It’s not that your marriage was made in Heaven, but that you both are creating together a New Heaven on earth. I am learning daily what genuine covenant means when I behold and contemplate the wisdom, the joy, and the resiliency of your union. This troubled world has more hope and possibilities because of your marriage and family life. I cherish the memory of being present at your ceremony on July 10, 2004.

  11. Susie Martin-Wilson

    Joy, Happy Anniversary!! I hope you and Pam have many more! Fred and I will be married 20 years this September. It is so nice to have a best friend. Don’t you agree? And also, to be yourself around each other. Again, Happy Anniversary, Your Long Time Friend, Love Ya, Susie

    • Thank you, Susie! It is both so nice and so much more than that to have a best friend who knows you and loves you both inside and out. Congrats to you & Fred. Lots of love from this side of the country, J

  12. Marcia Tingley

    Joy and Pam, happy anniversary (in a slightly less public forum than FB)! And this was a truly wonderful post. I loved the Pooh excerpt, and after 43 years, I can attest that it’s the tiny things that make it work. We had a very tough day at work today, and the fact that we could try to process it, and be silent about it together, and talk about it together, is one of the real blessings of marriage and relationships. How lucky you are!

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