Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Family That Stays Together

If you're free this weekend and find yourself in central Ohio, you can catch Darwin as Juror No. 12 (the jerk) in Twelve Angry Men, performed at the local courthouse. We're a theatrical household, and production week is a given in our house, but as I'm on the audience side of the show this time, I confess to breathing a sigh of relief that the long nights of rehearsals are coming to an end. Make no mistake: I support Darwin being in the show with my whole heart, and practically blackmailed him into auditioning since I couldn't do try out myself, what with the baby and all. Still, the intensive nature of rehearsal is a strain on the household, pushing the evening later and later as everyone waits up for Daddy to come home and tell us all the news from the night's run.

When, at age 18, we pictured our future married life, we had a very hazy image of what life would be like with our imaginary large family. We pictured children who were us in miniature, great family achievements, an exciting career path, and of course lots of sex. Somehow, we didn't factor in the petty distractions: a soft baby in bed next to us looking at us with big eyes just as things are heating up, someone pounding on the door demanding how to spell "juror", the cat throwing up on the floor, someone having a tantrum downstairs. And these are simply the happy, normal parts of family life that test us in small ways. There's nothing big or dramatic that happens to us -- all that is for the stage. Our marriage and our family is built on the minor happenings of everyday life. "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." (Lk. 16:10) Always look to the small matters first; the great ones are of almost no consequence.

Catholics love conversion stories, for the same reason everybody loves rom-coms. We get to watch somebody fall in love with the faith, overcome obstacles, and at last reach the altar -- and then we fade to black. The story stops right when it gets interesting; right when the hard part starts. 
The radio program This American Life made the point in their 2009 episode "Somewhere Out There". Ira Glass interviews an American man who went on a ridiculously romantic quest for a Chinese opera musician -- a woman he'd fallen for, thought he didn't even know her name. 
But the interview isn't really about that. It's about the rest of the story: They did marry, but as Glass explains, "it was really hard. The novelty had worn off and the framework of their entire relationship was an ocean away... After going through those rough years when they even considered splitting up, the story of how they met came to feel less and less important and they didn't talk about it as much. Now that have a different story." The husband, Eric Hayot, describes it as "the story of struggle and pain passed through, and fought through, and overcome. And that's a story that you don't tell in public because no one ever asks how did you two stay together? Everyone always asks how did you two meet?"
This blog, though it is a small thing, and not particularly about our marriage, is in fact an account of how we have stayed together over the years. Not that there's much drama about that; we never doubted that we would stay together, and "staying together" seems rather fraught language to describe our uneventful life and family. But we have here a nearly thirteen year account of how we've grown as individuals and as a couple and as a family, and how growth in one of those areas is truly growth in all of them. What strengthens me as a person strengthens our family, strengthens me as a mother and wife as well as an individual. In fact, I would question any experience which I felt made me stronger at the expense of being a wife and a mother, since those are not just elements of my personality but bound up with my vocation -- and therefore, my salvation. 

In this present instance, the theatrical vocation I thought I had for myself is coming to fruition in my family while I sit and watch and my baby sits and nurses. And this is only for a season. My turn is coming up with the summer musical, because God has so split his gifts among us that Darwin does not sing and so the musical is mine, all mine -- mine to share with the five older kids who can perform, anyway, and the baby who will probably be at all rehearsals. Baby always comes, because I'm faithful in small things. 

1 comment:

Brandon said...

Always look to the small matters first; the great ones are of almost no consequence.

This is a very good point. Virtues aren't flashy, and most of their actions, or the actions you do to develop them, are small and quiet. Or small, at least, since I suppose the 'quiet' can't always be guaranteed in family matters.