Don’t Hold Me Down

We went apple picking last weekend.  Or we tried to go apple picking.  Unbeknownst to us the apples were all gone.  We drove for an hour plus, arrived at the orchard, noticed it was devoid of customers and got out of the car.  We wandered around the grounds, passing pumpkins that didn’t get chosen for Halloween.  Gift shops full of fall merchandise – apple pies, pumpkin butters, holiday jams.  A petting zoo of farm animals.  When we rounded a barn toward the apple trees they were bare.

That morning I talked Marc into visiting the area where my family picked apples when I was a child.  I thought of driving through the hills of Eastern Kansas into Western Missouri – yellows, oranges, and brilliant reds wrapping the winding back roads.  The picnic spot we often visited.  Walking in the orchards under the tempered fall sun.  I wanted to experience it again, but with my own children this time.  Let them see and feel the same things I did.  Recreate my fond memories to pass along to them as gifts.  But, luckily, the folly in my plan was made clear as the day went on.  Luckily, because it taught me something.  Folly, because everything changes.  It does, it must, and it’s good.

The leaves had all fallen by this first day of November, on which I hadn’t planned.  A few specks of pale yellow remained, but mostly the bare trees of winter lined the roads.  Then the orchard was picked through.  We joked about the free rotting apples on the ground – “Would you eat that if you were the guy in Unbroken?” – but there would be no picking today.  We tried another orchard close by, but the result was the same.  Clearly apples in the same area are on the same ripening schedule.  No apples here, no apples there.

I remembered this orchard.  There had been a conveyor belt where you could watch how apples were sorted by color and quality.  But it was turned off for the season. The only apples left to buy were Jonagolds which – yuck.  The kids raced plastic ducks in a contraption made of feeding troughs and halved pvc pipe behind the main gift shop.  I wandered the aisles looking at Christmas jam, trying to make the trip worth something, but it was no use.  Jam wasn’t enough.  We left with a jug of cider.

So it was a bust.  As far as making memories goes.  But for me it was a valuable way to waste a morning.  Marc was kind.  My motives were clear to him from the moment I suggested the trip, but he left me alone.  He let me try, probably knowing we would fail.  Because trying to recreate something that has happened before, especially something that carries the weight of childhood memories, is a dangerous goal.  It’s bound to flop, and that’s good.  My family now is new.  Its own entity, separate from the family in which I was raised.  So it makes sense to create new memories that are our own.  My childhood memories can remain my childhood memories and retain their value.  To me.  And as we create what will be my children’s memories of their growing years, the burden is off to make them equal to mine or the same.  I’m free to let them be what they are.  No pressure.  It feels wonderful to let that go.

What a silly thing to hold me down – fond memories.  I feel a lightness in pushing them off.  They can sit next to me, I can remember them when I want, but they won’t be a weight any longer.  “Hi memories.  I remember you; you were great.  Nice to see you.  Gotta go – new things to do.”

Luke and Lily came with me to Starbucks this morning, books and activities in tow.  On our way from the car Luke told me about a memory he has of coming here with Marc, getting hot cocoa and playing games.  They did that a few times one winter.  And it hit me that I don’t have to try to make memories.  They happen all by themselves.  I just have to think about what I want to do, what we want to do, and do that.  And it will magically, inevitably turn into a memory.  And as long as those things don’t mostly suck, they will be fond.  If we wrap them in love, and laughter, and especially if they involve a treat, they will be remembered as great.  Even if they do suck, they might be fond.  That’s how memories work, thank goodness.

In light of my new perspective of recollection, today I created the memory for my kids of getting chocolate croissants and reading while Mom wrote for her blog.  Sitting at the window seat like a grown up.  So simple.  And so much better than a two hour road trip for apple cider.  I’ll totally take it.

Secret Heart

Marc and I had a decent sized fight last week – big and frustrating enough to actually make me at a loss for words.  You can ask him – that doesn’t happen much.  Words are my forte.  They flow from my mouth like a rushing river when I’m upset, my arguments clearly outlined in my mind almost instantly.  It’s a strange and mostly unhelpful skill since I’m neither a lawyer nor a politician.  My kids don’t use logic, so it’s of no use in that realm.  And I’m pretty sure Marc loathes my undefeated debate record from high school.  But I can’t help it.  I’m wired to present my case, defend my case, and end with a lengthy closing argument.  In this instance, however, I was so angry, feeling so hopeless, I just gave the hell up.  Whatever.  That was my closing argument.  That’s when you know things are bad – when you’re beyond mad, beyond furious, all the way to I don’t give a damn.

I saw Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few days later.  It was my fourth Lyle Lovett concert (I knew almost every word to almost every song), but the first time I’ve seen John Hiatt.  I’ve long appreciated Lyle Lovett’s gift of phrase-turning – his ability to be both funny and poignant in the same breath.  But I realized that John Hiatt is a master wordsmith, too.  Lyle has a creamy voice that sinks into your bones and a sweet, light touch on the guitar, so it’s easy to hear the words that sit on top.  In contrast, Hiatt’s gruff voice and hard-strumming guitar mask his wisdom.  But it’s under there, and worth digging for.

I sat in the fourth row, so close it was like being in a living room watching the two of them banter casually, each playing his favorite songs for a friend.  My proximity gave the lyrics a weight and immediacy they wouldn’t carry if heard from the back of a large theater.  When Hyatt sang what I’ve always thought of as his cliche song Have a Little Faith in Me,  I heard its’ cut-to-the-bone truth and how it applied to us.

 

An’ when your secret heart

Cannot speak so easily

Come here darlin’ from a whisper start

Have a little faith in me

An’ when your back’s against the wall

Just turn around an’ a you will see

I’ll be there, I’ll be there to catch your fall

So have a little faith in me

Cause I’ve been loving you for such a long time, baby

Expecting nothing in return

Just for you to have a little faith in me

You see time, time is our friend

‘Cause for us there is no end

All you gotta do is have a little faith in me

 

It’s a simple idea – don’t give up on me – but what a nice way to say it.  My secret heart could not speak.  My secret heart was pissed, and confused, and forlorn.  But the song says Remember who you’re dealing with here.  He’s not your enemy.  He’s your partner.  And this is forever.  You catch his fall and he’ll catch yours.  

It’s extremely cheesy, but I made Marc sit and listen to it.  And I had him follow along with the lyrics as the song played.  Yep.  I’m not joking around with this making-my-marriage-work thing.  I won’t settle with biding our time until a better day comes along.  I’m all-in, and that takes effort.  It takes sitting down with the lyrics of a song written by a love-embattled writer, with experience in the area of relational strife, and paying attention.  Whatever is no good.  Trusting that we’re on the same team, having faith in each other to catch our mutual fall is better.  Under John Hiatt’s scruffy vocals is hard-won wisdom, and I’m willing to listen.  Luckily, so is Marc.

I’m not dumb enough to think that a song is going to change everything.  The lyrics aren’t magical.  The tune tugs at the heart but it won’t save us when we’re beyond angry.  Which will happen again.  But the right words can point me in the right direction.  A well-written paragraph, or sentence, or phrase can stick with me forever and help shape my perspective.  Shakespeare has advised me.  Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.  So has Paul the Apostle.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  And now, so has John Hiatt.  Next time my own words won’t come I’ll remember this song.  And refuse to simply give up.  And have faith that Marc is my ally even when it doesn’t feel that way.

Here’s to the beautiful, difficult odyssey of marriage.   And to to all the writers who help along the way.