* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ordinary Love

I've been listening to that U2 song, Ordinary Love, a lot lately because I'm trendy like that.  I've also been thinking rather a lot about Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar.  And, then, we offered the alter flowers this week at church and that means you also write a little blurb that goes in the announcements telling what the flowers are in remembrance of or celebration for or whatever and, so, with all that stewing about in my head and sandwiched in between the Target and grocery runs, I contributed this:

In celebration of the many miracles of summer; blinking fireflies, crashing thunderstorms, gentle night breezes, blooming flowers and 14 years of ordinary love.

This apparently left some of the congregation rather nonplussed.

We were married on June 17.  It was almost too hot.  We were not quite too young.  We really didn't have everything figured out.  It was rather a lot scary and I only knew how to make 4 main dishes but we did it anyway.

From this year, at the beach, our wedding was before the digital age

When I wrote that little blip for the announcements, I was thinking about how extraordinarily important ordinary love is in a marriage and how it's strongly implied in the vows and, for that matter, in the liturgical calendar, but not so much spelled out.  For sickness and in health, for richer or poorer... those can come off as so dramatic but it's really just all about for better or for worse.  It's not the pits of despair juxtaposed against becoming independently wealthy.  It's colds and migraines verses quite well rested.  A good deal of a fairly stable marriage is partly cloudy versus mostly sunny.  There are peaks and valleys but too many of them make the stuff of soap operas, not a relationship you can actually grow within.

That cup of coffee Allen makes me every morning is the height of mundanity.  Folding Allen's socks and underwear is the stuff of endless purgatory.  Being sure the bills are paid and the trash is taken to the curb on the right night, every week... yawn... Huge Yawn.  But, think of what a marriage is without that.  Without the passing glance, absent the habitual smile, missing the bits and pieces that are an ordinary life filled with ordinary love, it's not simply a slightly less full life, it's is an extraordinarily lonely one- even within a marriage.

There are moments for crash, bang, boom.  There is a time for extraordinary, miraculous, courageous love but there is also an ordinary time.  I adore those moments when I said "Yes," and "I do," and "We're going to have a baby," but I also adore the many very small moments of ordinary; of coffees and hand clasps and all those times when it's just that he showed up.

And, so, last year I wrote about my husband's heroic efforts and this year about his ordinary ones and I really can't tell you which make our marriage the richer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Embracing My People

I made my first foray into the south when I went to college.  For 5 years, Nashville was my somewhat surprising home.  I earned my Bachelor's and then my Master's.  I met my husband and welcomed his proposal.  I found friends.  I learned about protective coloring.  While my roots wander deep into southern Missouri and Illinois and the part of Florida that is more boats and gators and drawls than it is princesses and fairies, I was unprepared for pretty much all aspects of southern society done proper.  I wouldn't say I mastered the skills but I did learn the value of a good set of pearls, a well placed "sugar," and the power of lipstick and mascara.  Then I moved to Ithaca, New York, the only place I have ever felt that I was just shy of a tea party holding conservative.

But, we wandered back and now, here we seem set to stay, in Virginia.

Montgomery county is far enough into the mountains to be more country than southern.  It's a fine distinction but important.  It's farming and God and country and Pentecostals and snake handling and cool summer nights and winter snow.  It's towns nestled in hollers and wondering what to do now that the textiles are gone away.  It's trailer parks but not too many tornados.  It's hippies hiking the Appalachin trail.  It's pride in being a Lee of the Robert E. variety but also having more than a sprinkling of McCoys (see Hatfield and).  It's towns too small to hold all their poverty and need but far too big to simply disapear.

And, nestled in, amongst it all, is the shining beacon of hope, Blacksburg.  And, within, a subset of those who are most definately southern.  While I suspect that few would be able to hold their own against that holy trinity (at least from my time) of Kappa, Theta, and Delta, I was well served by my hard won social graces when we arrived and I found myself in the thick of women 40 years my senior, valiantly working on my needlework and discussing the relative merits of homemade v box mix lemon squares. (I actually like the boxed quite well)

But, as time goes on, I find myself carving out a new spot for myself somewhere in the intersection of country and southern and the no-man's-land of Maryland (where I spent the first 18 years of my life) and the blatant simplicity of Mainah cooking my father demanded my mother master.  I am slowly learning the thrifty kitchen skills my Dust Bowl grandmother could probably do in her sleep.  I can whip up strawberry preserves and icebox pickles, although I admit to needing a recipe.  I am learning to embrace canned milk products and am wandering towards pie crust proficiency even if it is by way of vodka.  I have a store of recipes under my belt to bring new mothers and another set to bring to covered dish suppers.  I'm hoarding the children's outgrown jeans to turn into a rag rug.

For me, it all comes down to the food.  I think that's really what it is to embrace your past; embrace your heritage; embrace your place.  Knowing how to make your way through all manner of social strata and expectations is vital.  Knowing when to pull out your pearls and when to throw on your ratty jeans is crucial.  But, if you really want to know your culture; that bone deep culture that means home; that means your people; that means those that you will take in and that means must take you in?  That's food.  That's condensed milk and pie crust and a flakey biscuit.  That's cast iron skillets and cornbread and okra.  That's ham and greens and black eyed peas.  And then, because I'm the product of an intricate past, it's also plain roasted carrots.  It's steamed asparagus.  It's clams you dug yourself.  It's salt and pepper and maybe a little oil.  And, for all of them, it's putting up and making do and saving a little for a rainy day.  Because, for 5 years of my life, I learned to be a southern woman and for 11 I've learned to be a country woman but for 18 I learned to be a northern woman.  Luckily, I don't have to choose which I want to be when I grow up and my table is plenty big enough to hold a skillet of cornbread even when it also holds baked beans.