In honor of my wedding anniversary I share with you my favorite passage about marriage from one of my favorite books, The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell. In my mind it is the most honest and true writing I have ever encountered about commitment and the realities of two people staying together. I have been known to send it to friends when their marriages are in crisis. (Because nothing gives comfort like a really long book passage.) Anne Edwards is the narrator in this passage. She’s married to George Edwards and is talking with their younger friend Jimmy Quinn. Bear with me, because I think it’s worth the really long read.
“…we all make vows, Jimmy. And there is something very beautiful and touching and noble about wanting good impulses to be permanent and true forever,” she said. “Most of us stand up and vow to love, honor and cherish someone. And we truly mean it, at the time. But two or twelve or twenty years down the road, the lawyers are negotiating the property settlement.”
“You and George didn’t go back on your promises.”
She laughed. “Lemme tell ya something, sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men.” She watched him chew that over for a moment before continuing, “They’ve all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole lot different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt. Oh, there are continuities. He has always been fun and he has never been able to budget his time properly and – well, the rest is none of your business.”
“But people change,” he said quietly.
“Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we’ve had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people.” She flopped back against her chair. “Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever.” ― Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
In my world, and I only have depth of vision into my own life, this is how marriage really works. You make a vow and you spend the rest of your life together doing the best you can by that commitment given the people you become. With me and Mr. Afthead there have been really hard times when we clung to each other, and other times when we pushed away. There have been unexpected joyful times and well planned celebrations that fell flat. There are times when our marriage works without a hitch. There are other times when it is a deadly slog that we just have to get through. Throughout it all we decide if the marriage makes sense with who we are in a given moment and in the foreseeable future. So far, we’ve come out of that evaluation together every time. It isn’t Romeo and Juliet, but it’s worked for us.
I hope I haven’t embarrassed you all with the deep romance that runs through the Afthead household. Now off to go cook dinner for my snookems. Also, there’s a card here somewhere I need to sign.
Love from the Aftheads!