Oh, wait, wrong dwarves. I woke up this morning to my mother having shared this medley of Tolkein songs, performed acapella, and, well, it’s fun!
But before that, my husband invited me to sit outside in the pre-dawn dark with him. Ohio being Ohio, it’s currently in the mid-60s, rainy, and positively balmy out there. We have a porch, now, that wraps around two sides of the house and allows space for chairs and a little table. We two sat and talked in the relative warmth, enjoying a moment of peace before the day really began.
It’s these moments which are the glue that holds everything in place. I’m thinking about the chairs I bought for the dining table recently. I’d posted a photo of them, being whimsical, and someone wanted a close-up of how the legs connected. Pegs and glue, I deduced, not seeing a place for a screw or bolt that extended all the way through the wood. It’s a nicer look, for a smooth finish, where all the holding is done out of sight. The pegs, of course, are what bears most of the force of a full-grown adult sitting on it. But the glue keeps the pegs in place.
Even the best of marriages needs renewal of that glue from time to time. Little frictions chip away at it. Evenings spent apart, running around picking up a clarinet, and groceries, and… long vacations where it’s too cold to escape the house and tempers fray, and… no time, no energy, all that slowly erodes the glue and makes the joints weak.
So you take the time, stealing it from your morning routine if you have to, and do the little things that strengthen the joins. You do that even if you aren’t feeling any give there, not yet. It’s not that you’re sitting in the rainy dark talking about deep relationship goals or topics, you aren’t. It’s just a bit of this, the weather, goals for the kids, the best boots for mud. It’s the time taken to connect, just the two of you. To remember what it was that made you fall in love in the first place.
We try to take those moments whenever we can. I don’t think it’s a deliberate ‘relationship mending’ but simply that we want to be together. We love the kids, and know that they need us to parent them as they grow toward adulthood. But we need one another and the strong join that makes us a parental unit in order to accomplish that in the best way. I’ve been a single parent, and it’s hard. This is better. Mutual support and aid, coming to the rescue when one parent is under siege. Yes, parenting is sometimes a bit like a battle.
We have deliberately planned some time together, trying to make it out on a ‘date’ every week. Most of the time our dates wind up being as much running errands as anything, but it’s still time and we talk about everything under the sun. Although mostly house and family, these days. Where once we’d plot novels, now we discuss educational goals and how to support the young things. It’s amazing how quickly things change. But for those times of torsion, where the force on the chair legs goes all sideways instead of the normal, well, we know where to find fresh glue.
And if the wood breaks? The chairs we had when we first arrived here were an odd mixture of a few we’d bought new, and four that had been picked up for a dollar apiece. I didn’t expect much from them, which was good because they didn’t deliver much. The glue in their joints was long gone, which we could have corrected. But the wood shearing off flush with the joint? That’s beyond my capacity to repair at this time. Yes, I suppose I could have gone out and found doweling to replace some of it (windsor-style chairs). It would have looked godawful, but the chairs would have been sittable. Maybe. We decided that rather than try to repair them, we’d replace them with something that would stand up to teenagers who plop down, sprawl, wiggle, and generally torment chairs. The First Reader was holding out for cafeteria metal-framed chairs.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading in a niche genre, reading stories written down by paramedics, cops, and ER docs. One consistent thread through them is broken family dynamics. If I’m going to persist in my chair metaphor, and I am, then some of the people out there are like my dollar chairs. Poorly constructed, slapped together with shoddy glue that fell out almost as soon as it was dry. The only thing that’s holding them together is the finishing nails, and when enough pressure is put on them in the wrong direction… pop. Then the wood shears, and it’s all over. It’s difficult to create an enduring product when you use inferior materials. Am I implying my husband and I are somehow better? No.
We were raised on the values of a different time and age. I’m younger than he by a generation, but I was raised outside mainstream culture. Do I think that there aren’t good kids growing up now? No. There are some wonderful young men and women maturing into their full abilities, with the capacity to endure and add beauty to the world through their very existence. I’m never one to want to stereotype an entire group of people, so although I recognize the truthiness of the millennial jokes, I also see that it’s not completely accurate. For a time when my Eldest was involved with Civil Air Patrol, I was impressed and inspired by the young people I met in her squadron, just as one example.
Sadly, I do think that concepts like honor, duty, loyalty and love as more than accomplishing as many genital sneezes as humanly possible are not being taught. Babies come into the world from parents who treated their reproductive systems as toys only, with no sense of the gravity of their actions. Don’t get me wrong – sex is a wonderful gift we humans are given, and to be enjoyed – but that’s not the only thing it is for. No form of birth control is 100% effective. Nope, not even that one.
We live in a world full of broken chairs, broken people. I can put the chairs out on the curb and if the pickers don’t get them, the garbageman will. I’ve got new chairs around the table that make me smile (and didn’t break the budget). Yes, I could take the time to drill out the shattered pine, smutch on a little glue, and tap a new dowel in. After I shaped that dowel (which I don’t have the skills for, but the First Reader does. Partnership is a wonderful thing where you fill in one another’s weaknesses to create something greater than the sum of the parts) and cut it to fit. It would never look as good, but it would hold. I can’t do that on a person. People are much more complex than furniture. Can people mend? Now, that’s a question for another day, as I have a Little Man to get ready for school.