Early Marriage | Part 12

by Elouise

November 1966, Cambridge Apt.

Early marriage is often sweet and romantic, like this old photo. Nonetheless, we’re not going there today. This post focuses on the first of several challenges that surfaced early, before we had our first child.

Did we  get them all sorted out? Not quite. They tend to hang around and then show up later in new incarnations. Like a curriculum or program we never quite finish.

Today’s challenge: our family histories. Why? For one thing, they’re different in several key areas. Also, they have a way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it. But the main reason is that we don’t think they’ll sneak up on us at all. Haven’t you heard? We’re creating a brand new life together!

We’re determined to get it right. That means not doing whatever our parents did that was hurtful or harmful or just plain wrong. We’ve seen what they did, we know what we like and don’t like, and we’re going to get it right!

Some differences between our families are pretty obvious. I’m a preacher’s daughter, raised by both my parents. The first of four daughters. Family business was handled strictly by my father.

D is a child of divorce, raised mainly by his mother, an educator. He’s the middle child of three siblings; two sons and a daughter, in that order. Family business was handled by his mother, though not in the same strict top-down manner.

These little quirks of history didn’t seem important back then. What mattered was that D and I were on the same page. Clear and focused about what our marriage would be like.

While we were dating, D told me a lot about his family history. I already know he was frustrated and angry about the divorce, including all that happened and then didn’t happen after that. It seems D’s family talks about this openly. It isn’t a secret.

He also described a lot of the fun stuff he did growing up—fishing and playing tennis, dancing and being in a dance band, going to movies and playing practical jokes. I’m mesmerized. His family life sounds way happier than mine, even though his parents got divorced when he was 3 years old.

I’ve told D some things about my family. Especially about living in communal mission houses when my parents were members of a missionary organization. D is impressed, and I’m proud my parents are Christians and my father is a preacher.

I also tell him about my three younger sisters and some of the things we did together as a family. Things like taking long car trips across the Southwest to the West Coast, and from Savannah up into the Northeast. Also, rowing out to the sandbar in the river at our first home in the Deep South.

When I describe my family’s life together it doesn’t sound nearly as fun or colorful as D’s family life. He knows there were lots of rules. I don’t, however, tell him about the beatings or anything else like that. It makes me ashamed to think about it, much less talk about it.

D thinks my family is nearly ideal. He wants a family just like mine! He’s super impressed that we had family devotions together in the mornings around the breakfast table. He’s almost envious because we were Christians from the beginning, and because I have two parents who never divorced.

D wasn’t a Christian until he was a teenager. In fact, Christian faith wasn’t part of his family history. One of his ancestors, an ordained clergyman, engaged in illegal behavior. This story was openly passed along as one reason his extended family wasn’t always friendly toward Christianity and the church.

I, however, think D’s family is endlessly interesting and exciting, if a bit strange. We’re not at all ready for the way divorce shaped D’s life, and his expectations about marriage.

Nor are we ready for the truth about my family. Especially my formation as a young girl and teenager. From my perspective, it was in the past and could stay right there forever.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 May 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser’s tripod, Nov 1966