The thing I understand more and more is that my mother has felt the quiet ache of missing me for decades, ever since I left home at 18 and never came back. She feels it still, even now at 91, sitting in her chair in Jamaica, one of her grown children at hand, the other across the seas. This missing our children, this letting them go and trusting the world to treat them kindly without our vigilance or intervention, it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but mothers and fathers have been doing it for eons.
This thought is not unrelated to Mary Moon's daughter getting married yesterday. I have been thinking all weekend about this luminous young woman standing up before the ones she loves best and pledging to love the one she found for the rest of her life, and her young man doing the same. The thought of it is so achingly beautiful I can hardly stand it. It takes me back to my own wedding day, and how impossibly young we were, how innocent and bright-faced and in love. And yet I love the one I married more now than I ever thought possible, this man who fathered my children, who reports on his day while cooking me dinner most evenings, who curls up against me and reads his medieval mysteries at night, who takes me to see the orchid show come spring. I am thinking about what it means to join your life with someone, to raise children with them, to let those children fly when the time comes and to relearn the quiet in the far reaches of the house, just the two of you together again, the way you started out.
It is the most unbearably beautiful and holy act of faith I can imagine, this joining, this pledge to love one another as bodies soften, as hips ache, as waists grow plump and laugh lines and frown lines no longer hide when the laugh or the frown is spent. I read something the other day about making marriage last after the fluttering excitement of new love inevitably diminishes; it cannot be sustained through the years of piled up laundry and skinned knees, homework drama and tuition payments, teenagers slamming doors and testing limits, the lovers' fading youth. What makes love last, this writing said, is the decision to love the one you found (barring abusive circumstance, of course). You choose to keep loving them. You have to actively choose it. I felt a rush of recognition, reading this passed-along writing that someone had shared on a social network, and that I clicked on. I realize I do choose it. I choose him. Now and forever. And I am blessed every day that he chooses me too.