Wednesday, May 8, 2002

 

by Fran Edstrom

Passages to read and keep

We spent part of the weekend with Morgan and Dan choosing the different readings for the wedding ceremony. As we discussed Bible passages, I reflected on the relative ease with which we understood the messages compared to the difficulty of living according to them.
They chose a passage from the Book of Ruth, which paraphrased, says, "where you go, I'll go, where you live, I'll live, your people will be my people and your God will be my God."
It is a beautiful passage and, although spoken between in-laws, expresses the essence of what marriage is -- an indissoluble union. Put into the context of the year 2002, and looking forward fifty or more years, keeping such a promise will require a mature love, an understanding of each other's needs, and a willingness to either change or not change one's plans for one's life.
When John decided to leave graduate school before he earned his doctoral degree in English, and to abandon plans to be an English professor, I had to rethink my entire life.
My father was a college professor, my mother stayed at home and took care of six kids until they were all in school, and then she began teaching as well.
I thought that my life with John would be like my parents' life. They seemed happy with each other, their family, and their chosen careers. I wanted to offer my children the same thing.
But rather than moving to a college campus, we came back to Winona and started the Winona Shopper. Each time I became pregnant, I tried to find someone to take my place, so I could stay at home with the kids. It was soon evident, however, that there was no one who was willing to work with the same dedication John and I had to to keep our shaky business afloat.
We put a playpen in our office on the second floor on Third Street above what was then Tradehome Shoes. When Cassidy outgrew the playpen, we moved our offices to the basement of our house on Dacota Street, where I could watch the kids and the business at the same time.
As the business grew, it was impossible to run it out of the house. We called upon our in-laws and friends to watch Cassidy, and soon Morgan as well.
I was not a "stay-at-home" Mom.
We had very little money, and what money there was came in so sporadically, that I couldn't help but think (sometimes rather bitterly) how much better off we would have been with a regular paycheck. Once, during our first year, we had a huge fight over whether John wasted more money on magazines or I on pantyhose.
I also missed my family and my home in Massachusetts. Back then, there was no doubt in my mind that if something would "happen" to John, I would move back to New England, to "my" family.
Not exactly in the spirit of the passage from Ruth.
In the gospels, Mark 10: 6-9 seems a logical choice for wedding scripture. It ends with "what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (the old word, but a good one).
Over the thirty-two years we've been married, there were times when one or the other of us would have gladly walked out, but a belief that marriage is forever, a feeling that a divorce would not be looked upon kindly by our families, a desire to have an intact family for the kids, and finally a certain maturity, a willingness to overlook our individual desires, kept us from that.
It takes both parties to reach this point. It is not something one person can accomplish out of sheer willpower.
And I didn't say our "love" kept us together. Over those thirty-two years, love was transformed from raw material into an intricately woven tapestry. The challenges, the celebrations, the tragedies, and the small fights over dollars are the things that change and mature young love into a committed union that endures for better or worse.
This is a difficult thing to explain to kids in their twenties, whose experience cannot yet prepare them for it.
No one, I think, goes into marriage thinking that it's temporary. But marriage needs constant care. It's almost as hard to feed and nurture as a rosemary plant in Minnesota. We can only hope that our Dan and Morgan are as fortunate as we are, and as our parents were, in having somehow made a good choice of a mate, and will come safely through the pitfalls and hurdles that continue for the duration of a life together.


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