The stylist's fingers were moving quick through my hair, applying white and blue chemicals, in effort to sustain my vain pursuit of the blonde strands I grew out of 15 years ago. I’d been explaining about our coming move, how this would be my last time at the salon.
“Ummmmm…” I said, looking at her reflection in the mirror. I was so caught off guard by her question. Honestly, the thought of being angry with Chris because his job is moving us was totally out of my realm of emotions. But how to say that without coming across as a whole number of clichés?
“Honestly,” I said, “I’ve been married eight years and I spent a lot of those years with a husband who didn’t know what he was supposed to do with his life. He was unhappy at work, unsure of what he was good at. And then, to find a job where he’s been thriving? A job where his talent is noticed? I’m just so thankful.”
Then, I added, so as not to appear totally selfless when I’m obviously not, “He is my biggest support in my work. It makes me want to support him too.”
That’s probably not the answer she wanted. She was bored by the time I was done with my marriage speech. We sat in silence for awhile, my hair in foil, my fingers paging through the Denim Issue of Glamour.
* * *
Chris let me sleep-in Sunday morning. We have a pretty amazing system that we’ve only just discovered this year. One of us sleeps late on Saturday while the other one gets up early with the kids. And the next day, we switch.
I woke up at 8:45 to August screaming and Chris sending him to his room.
An hour and a half later after we were all fed and dressed and plugged into our respective seats in the car, I looked over at my husband who was driving the ten minute commute to church.
“You’re gonna hate me for saying this,” I said. “But I’m so tired I feel like I could just fall asleep right now in the car.”
“Then close your eyes,” he said and smiled. “My yoke is easy.” He was mostly joking.
* * *
The day before Pawpaw passed away, my brother Brooks sat down with Meemaw to have a very difficult conversation. Brooks is the ordained minister in our family. The minister of the family always gets the hard job. Pawpaw had been close to death for more than 48 hours at that point. The consensus among the family was that he was waiting for Meemaw to release him, to tell him it was alright to go now: that she would be okay, that we would all be okay.
Brooks was asked to encourage her to have that conversation with her husband.
Brooks says he and Meemaw sat together and cried and talked about marriage. I’ve said before that Meemaw is a lady with an opinion, so of course, in the midst of that painful and emotional conversation, she gave Brooks her three keys to being married 69 years.
She said: “Be patient, always tell each other the truth, and most important, a promise is a promise: honor your vows.”
* * *
What would it take, I wonder, for my heart to blame my husband for this move? I know I'm capable of all kinds of selfishness and bitterness, but there is no one else in the world I want to move with. There’s no else who loves me the way Chris does, who knows me the way he does.
I get to stay home with my kids and I get to write, the thing I love more than anything, even though my financial contribution to our family is minuscule. And my husband supports those choices with his work, with this job that is moving us to California. It’s hard to blame someone who loves you so well.
It’s Sunday afternoon and he’s asleep on the couch with August. They both have books unfinished beside them. His hand is on my son’s back.
Friday night, the two of them helped pack dinner for a homeless ministry here in Austin. August’s job was to count cookies and put them in a bin. My husband counted with him. Chris made sandwiches while the boys and I played outside. After, we got in the car and we prayed for all the people who would eat those cookies August counted.
My yoke is easy, my husband said to me. I can't stop thinking about those words, Christ's words.
Our marriage has faced only small hardships. We walked through my two years of depression and anxiety. We were burdened with his uncertainty in work. We’ve struggled through moves and loneliness. Small hardships. But they have been filled with grace. Somehow, in those places and stages of our marriage, Chris has learned to love me better. The yoke he asks of me has become lighter.
Much was said about marriage last week. This post at Her.menuetics set off several responses in my blogging subculture. (I was moved by both this post at Kristin Tennant's blog and this one at Grace Biskie's blog.) I can’t pretend to know much about marriage. Eight years is only 2nd grade in the education of married life. We’re only just now learning cursive and multiplication. We have a long way to go. But what I’m learning is that deep in the cracks between Meemaw’s Rules for 69 Years of Marriage. Deep in the spaces between patience and truth and the vow-keeping, lies grace. Only grace oils the bitter places so the machine can run, so you can smooth each other out. So I can lean over in church during the passing of the peace and whisper, “Do you forgive me for All Of It this week?”
And he can smile and say: “My yoke is easy,” and mean it.