I have been thinking about marriage, that it is perhaps the most challenging of all human relationships. There is so much at stake, from our personal happiness, our financial security, our sense of place and purpose in the world, to our having a posterity to love and be loved by. Marriage is at once difficult and instructional. Marriage requires consecration and sacrifice, a constant negotiation toward a healthy and fluid balance of power, a vigilance for the welfare of another over the self, and a give-all commitment by both partners to the covenantal promise. I have been thinking that no relationship will teach us more about how to be human, and how to be divine. In marriage is the likelihood of experiencing life’s greatest pains of spirit and mind, and the possibility of life’s greatest joys, and very probably both. I think marriage generally works either to wonderful or to catastrophic effect. I have observed many successful and failed marriages, but none so carefully as Mom’s and Dad’s marriage, now in its 60th year. They shoulder every burden together. They discuss every problem and plan and posterity. They cry and plan and laugh and laugh. They are not two identical halves, by any means, but two congruent complementary components forming an entity complete. Dad does most of the talking, and Mom all the needlepoint. Dad calls “Lucille” throughout the day, telling her his every thought and impression. Mom at times snaps in exasperation, then rebounds with affectionate pats on his hand. Though my own marriage experience cannot emulate theirs, still I feel proud of my parents for sticking with it, for keeping the covenant, for showing the way. For my own part, the continuing opportunity is to keep my covenant with God, with my children, and with the broader family, and to lead a purposeful, contributing life. That is sufficient.
Preparing for the move, I wondered which room would be best for my bedroom. The basement bedroom is my favorite guest room because it is cooler, darker, more quiet, and more private—cave-like. The west-facing room with its big windows grows hot in summer. The other room has four bunk beds for when the grandchildren were younger. I decided that the basement would not do: if something went wrong in the night, I would not be able to immediately hear and respond. I consulted with Mom and Dad, and we decided to take the bunk beds down and move my bed in. They offered to let me use the larger (hotter) bedroom for my home office. The ceiling fan and window blinds will ease the heat. How gracious Mom and Dad were to volunteer this arrangement—it will work beautifully. The bedroom is simple, with my bed, dresser, and nightstand. The office has the only other furniture I brought: my 30-year-old first-ever kitchen table that my daughter Erin later refinished with black legs, dark wood-stain top, and painted flowers and vines, for my desk—at this desk, I typed the manuscripts of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road; a wood filing cabinet; a glass-doored book case for my current journals, writing projects, and reading list; and, the tall driftwood specimen Dad carried off Mount Timponogos in the 1950s and transformed into a gorgeous lamp. It sits on my great-grandfather Baker’s low, round, oak table with lathe-turned legs. I feel like I have come home.