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.