Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marriage, Merging, Memories


One Saturday afternoon in February, I was sitting on the beach at Smuggler's Cove in Tortola, entranced by Vincent Bugliosi's "The Sea Will Tell" about an exotic double murder on a tiny island in the Pacific by some yachties.

The cell phone rang.
"Hello," I said, musing at the wonders of technology offering convenience/communication and beauty without leaving a beautiful place.

"Mom. Listen," my son Ben began breathlessly.
"I'm walking back from Tiffany's. Do you know about this diamond shit?"
"Well, I've bought one or two. What's the question?"
"Well, this guy keeps talking about symmetry and I can't see it. What the hell--I can't see the difference, but I want to get the right one. I mean for value and all." I could hear the angst in his voice.
By now, I'm up off of my beach chair pacing. The young family next to me is smiling. It's hard not to eavesdrop on a beach--and I was smiling, too.
"Ben, you can't get the wrong one. The one you pick is going to be the right one."

"Honey, it's really not about appraisals, this is about a statement you're making," I said, trying to sound re-assuring.

"It's likely to be an heirloom for your daughter or granddaughter . I'm certain Abbi will love exactly what you get. "

I felt such empathy for his struggle to separate the perfection of the thing with the perfection of the decision to ask Abbi to marry him.

"Whatever ring you get will be perfect. I just know it."
We talked a little more about the weather in New York, his work. I went back to the Pacific with Vincent and the murderers, and he walked home, hopefully less worried.

A couple of weeks later, he called early one morning.
"Mom? Abbi and I...Abbi said 'yes'. We're getting married."

I could hear the excitement in his voice that always has accompanied important new beginnings for him.

Winning a village-wide contest for his art in Oak Park in 2nd Grade
Making his first "film" sometime around 10 or so. He played Superman.
Winning the election for vice president of student council at T/E Junior High
Getting his first gig with his first band in high school
Getting into Syracuse's Newhouse School of Journalism after much hard work
Snagging an interview with Michael Stipe of REM during his Freshman year at Syracuse
Getting his first freelance assignment after graduation
Watching Fred Rogers come through the front door on his birthday
Landing a job at MTV
...and many more I don't remember, I'm sure.

Ben's sorting things out now as they begin to merge their lives, their things, their dreams: old papers, pictures, furniture, books. He talks in his blog about the loss that goes along with saying goodbye to the things that have marked time thus far. ( www.BenjaminWagner.com ) And I hate it FOR him.

That pull of knowing that something that is new, and an important,even sacred, choice, will require moving something else out, shutting just the right doors, not all to make accomodate its coming into being. So that there can be space for the real and metaphysical new.

It's what we do when we make a choice or what one of my favorites, Maurice Blondel a French theologian ( from Provence, how could he be anything but wonderful ) would call exercising the "Willing Will". That would be the will that is evolving, moving toward something transcendent. Blondel would separate it out as the way to becoming your true self as painful as that road can be--as opposed to "Willed Will", the voice inside that says I-want-it-because-I-want-it-and-I-don't-care-what-you-want. More about him sometime later.

I found this poem in the New Yorker on May 17, 2004. Now I know why I saved it.

As the boy's bones lengthened
and his head and heart enlarge,
his mother one day failed

to see herself in him.
He was a man, radiating
the innate loneliness of men.

His expression was ever after
beyond her. When near sleep
his features eased towards childhood,

it was brief.
She could only squeeze
his broad shoulder. what could

she teach him
of loss, who now inflicted it
by entering the kingdom

of his own will?

---Mary Karr

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