Category: happily ever after


Someone once said, “Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.” Ask anyone you know, married or single, about-to-be-married or used-to-be-married, it doesn’t matter: they will all have something to say about marriage. Thousands of books have been written about marriage, hundreds of seminars and workshops are held each year on the subject, contracts are written, movies are made, and therapists and lawyers make their fortunes off of it. Still, we are no closer to figuring it out than Adam and Eve after their disastrous rendezvous at the fruit tree which gave birth to ‘he said, she said’ and the beautiful madness of marriage.

Irving Stone’s The Agony and The Ecstacy, published in 1961, is an amazing, masterfully written ‘biographical novel’ on the life of Michaelangelo. It is also a haunting and insightful portrayal of marriage. We see the contrast in the rich historical Renaissance era between Florence – a cultural mecca for artists, architects, musicians, and writers – and Rome, the political, religious, and educational benchmark for all of Italy.  Both cities brought their own unique value to their country, and to all of Europe as a result.  But not only in the culture where he was raised, we see Michaelangelo’s own personal battles mirror that of marriage. The passion with which he pursued what he loved, the despair of rejection and/or failure, the very struggle necessary to create. And the glory of a life well lived, leaving behind astounding works of art that have touched countless millions of lives.

We’ve all heard ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’. We are also from Florence and Rome. We are salt and pepper, dogs and cats, blue sky and deep green ocean, and velvet and steel. For all the ways we explore understanding and overcoming our differences, our contrasting elements are the stage of struggle on which we create things of beauty, works of art. Where would fried chicken be if seasoned only with pepper? How boring would a dog’s life be if never given the opportunity to chase after a cat? Would the sky be as blue if it did not rest peacefully against a deep green ocean? And could we truly appreciate the strength of steel if we never cradled velvet against our cheek?

My husband and I will be married for 17 years tomorrow. There have been seasons of ecstacy and times of overwhelming agony. We have loved, laughed, cried, yelled, made promises, made threats, and bought and sold cars, houses, and furniture. We have three wonderful children. We’ve shared many more pets. We’re learning to learn from others’ mistakes and celebrate their successes. And we’re learning what works for us. At the end of the day, for all our married ups and downs, he knows me. I know him. We draw strength, stability, and sometime arguments from each other. And at night, resting on the same pillows, there is comfort in knowing that Rome and Florence are learning to peacefully and productively co-exist.

The struggle to create something of beauty. The glory of leaving behind a work of art. The beautiful madness of marriage.

I killed a snake in our backyard last week.  I had been trimming the bloomed-out azaleas with an electric hedge trimmer.  When the pile of dead branches and spent blooms started piling up, I went to find the metal rake so I could move them to our ‘sinkhole’ up near the fence.  Sidebar: the builder oh-so-many-years-ago decided that instead of disposing of the trash properly as he built the house, his crew could simply toss everything up into the backyard.  Some 28-odd years later, there sits a hungry sinkhole that we feed several times a year with grass, leaves, branches, and whatever my young son and his friends decide is worthy of burying in our backyard abyss.

Anyway, as I carried the rake back to my work site, I saw him: a large black and yellow snake curled up at the base of the railroad ties.  I dropped the rake and made a quick retreat to the steps of the deck.  Apparently the vibration of the rake caused the snake to stir, and he began slithering his way back behind the railroad tie wall where my trimming had disturbed his home.  I suddenly realized that if he made it all the way in I would never see him again.  At first, that thought comforted me.  Then it occurred to me that I would still know he was out there.  Some ten feet or so away from the trampoline – and the kids.  I grabbed a huge pair of ‘yard scissors’ (manual hedge trimmers?) and snagged him around his mid-section.  Long story short, after a twisty, turney, tug-of-war I won and cut the snake in half.  He was laid to rest in a Tupperware dish with a rock on top of the lid (just in case a sawed-in-half snake could resurrect itself and escape) until my husband could get home to see my trophy of bravery.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my backyard companion was in fact a King Snake: non-venomous, not prone to strike (constrictor family), and easily tamed (please don’t tell my boys that last part).  He was in fact the neighborly kind of snake that eats rodents of every kind and is impervious to the bite of other native Georgia snakes which are venomous like the rattler, water moccasin, and a few others.  Bummer.  He was a good size, too.  Somewhere around 23″ long and as big around as my two thumbs put together.  I went to bed that night wondering if sometime in the next few days or weeks we would be overrun by rodents who had been given the green light to invade our now unsecured backyard.  No sugarplums for me – I had visions of Willard dancing through my head.

As I was relaying this story to my Mom the next day on the phone, she said almost as an afterthought, “Too bad you didn’t know what he was from the start; you might have changed your mind.”  I’ve been chewing on that for several days now.  How many times in my life have I encountered something that appeared to be a threat and reacted (panicked), only later to realize if I had only taken the time to get all the facts, I might have changed my mind?  In my defense, I have a history with snakes.  I’ve killed three in our yard in the last seven years and have been bitten by one.  Still, it has given me pause to recall at least a handful of decisions that given the opportunity and more information, I would have indeed ‘changed my mind’.

It might be stretching things a bit to say I miss ole’ Mr. Black and Yellow, but knowing what I know now, I might just have let him slither back behind those railroad ties and live happily (and well fed) ever after.

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