I’ve always loved reading letters. Two of my favorite books are the letters of poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, so it wasn’t unusual for me to read any letter I came across in our house whether it was addressed to me or not. Okay, call me a snoop, I don’t care. It was fun. And I learned a lot!
Oddly, my father kept all the letters written to him when he was in the Navy. A few from his sisters, but most were from girls who liked him. I read them all, over and over again. They were silly—not really mushy, just silly. I think girls acted more like ladies back then so maybe the correct word is … boring.Loving letters, why wouldn’t I read a letter addressed to my mom and postmarked from some small town in Arkansas? It was from her BFF, from her childhood, telling her a guy named Bob had burned up in a fire. He’d been drinking and smoking. Reading on, I learned that BFF was Mom’s former sister-in-law and that Bob had been her first husband. What? My mother had a former life? I never dreamed the woman who popped my face when I poked my chin at her would have anything before my dad.
Of course my imagination went wild. Was I really my dad’s daughter? After all, when Mom got mad at me she’d say, “You’re just like your father!” Maybe that guy Bob was the father she meant. You know how kids are. (In later years, I wrote to the BFF and asked if she had any pictures of my mom and of course, I'd like to see a pic of Bob too. She sent me some. How's that for a BFF?) Above you see mom and BFF in later years--still friends.
I asked my mother about Bob and she gave me a little history but what I found interesting was how she rode the bus from Arkansas to Texas, lived with an Aunt and Uncle, registered for nursing school and recreated herself. And then my father showed up—the handsome navy man. To hear her tell it, he wouldn’t leave her alone; he was totally enamored and in love. Well, of course he was! Just look at that nursing picture (center girl) —who wouldn’t be? Wasn’t she a beauty?
In Longview, Texas back in the 40s, lives crisscrossed like crazy. Dad dated and went to school with girls who later had kids in my classes. Odd to look at a girl I didn't especially like and know that her mom dated my dad. Yuk!
When Mom lived in the nursing school dorms downtown, she used to walk across the street to a little fruit stand to buy fresh fruit from a couple of very cute brothers. Guess who those brothers were? My husband’s father and uncle. I can see how our lives could have been easily changed—and I might not be me. Crazy, isn’t it, how things happen?
I think marriage is a miracle. It’s a challenge for the best of couples. It’s difficult. A lot of people still quip that ‘marriage is a state of mind.’ So if you're in the right frame of mind you can be/stay married? How's that work exactly?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines marriage this way:
a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage
Marriage is a lot more than a cold-fact definition, or a state of mind, but I guess it’s up to each of us to determine what it is and means to us. Scary, isn’t it, to think how we ‘live’ our marriage determines how our kids view and live theirs.
Years ago, while still in high school, my daughter made a funny observation. She said, “I think it’s weird that parents spend so much time telling their kids to beware of strangers, and then we meet a stranger, marry him, and live with him for the rest of our life--and they're okay with that.”
True, isn’t it? And frightening, in a way. Because we never get to know our spouses until we live with them--and sometimes it's too late.
When it comes right down to it—every day with our spouse should be a great adventure—learning, discovering, loving and respecting, practicing the Golden Rule with them, and having fun. Shouldn’t it?What do you think the most difficult part of marriage is?