Tag Archive: marriage


freedom extended

Mid-June, I put away Hugo’s Les Miserables in favour of Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Hugo was too heavy for the sultry summer weather, and I desired literature that had been aired out a little.

Both of the two Twain novels are light-hearted, enjoyable reads, but Huck Finn’s saga has an underbelly of racial commentary.  There are a few points in the novel which stand out in this manner, but there is a short section in Chapter 16 which I feel is almost the crux of the story.  In it, Huck Finn and his runaway slave companion, Jim, are travelling down the Mississippi, looking for Cairo.  Cairo is positioned at a crossroads between freedom and enslavement: continue further down the Mississippi and travel deeper into the south, or travel up the Ohio river and reach the northern states where slavery is abolished.

Huck begins to have a crisis of conscience (please excuse the use of derogatory language below, but I am quoting and, really, considering the point I am making, it would be idiotic to censor):

Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was saying the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he would go to saving up money and never spend a single cent, and when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two children, and if their master wouldn’t cell them, they’d get an Ab’litionist to go and steal them.

It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn’t ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the minute he judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying, “Give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell.”  Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children — children that belonged to a man I didn’t even know; a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm.

Reading it, I couldn’t help but shake my head.  Of course, I have a decent grasp of history and the treatment of slaves. I understood, too, that slaves were truly objectified, and stealing a person’s slave or helping that slave escape was perceived as no different than stealing their farm animals or their jewels.  It still astounded me, though, to hear stated in such bald terms that a greater crisis of conscience might arise from the idea of a man taking back his children and wife from the person who “owns” them, than does arise from the idea of the person “owning” them in the first place.

Later in the book, Jim talks about how he misses his family, and Huck simply cannot understand it, even though he would think nothing of a White person missing his or her family.  To Huck, it must seem as crazy as a table getting emotional about the absence of other tables: he simply cannot see Jim as a human being with feelings and yearnings.

Twain, of course, lived and wrote in the time when all of this was a reality so, even though it is fiction, he is a satisfactory and reliable commentator: this is what people believed.

Huckleberry Finn: Jim on the Raft

Illustration Credit: E. W. Kemble (original book illustration); Licence: Public Domain

The idea of having no free will and no personal choice; of being owned, and having my destiny determined, by another; of knowing that fulfilling a natural desire for companionship and offspring would simply enslave another person at the profit of another; of being separated from the people I love and not being able to bridge that gap; to say nothing of the abuse suffered by slaves…. the idea of it all is simply too disturbing to consider.

Slavery is truly one of the most disgusting blights on the history of humanity.

A few days ago, I spoke about my gratitude for freedom, but I felt that this example of freedom deserved special attention.  Today, I am thankful not only for my freedom, but for the heroes of history who went against the grain and fought against slavery, and fought for civil rights.

misfits

I mentioned previously (serendipity) that we are currently on the tail end of a family vacation.  While in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my good friend, Sarah.

I met Sarah in my first year of university.  I did not live in the dorms at any point in university, so sought out clubs as a way of meeting people.   We attended a club meeting and Sarah sat down beside me.  She said later that she chose to sit beside me because of the shirt I was wearing.  It was blue and seemed welcoming and safe to her.

We clicked immediately, but it took most of our first year for us to forge a meaningful friendship.  We crossed paths intermittently and, for several months, I always happened to be wearing the same shirt I was wearing when we met.  At first, Sarah joked that I must have only one shirt, but I think she later started to become suspicious that it was true.  I think we became better friends partly as an effort on my part to expose her to the rest of my wardrobe and allay her suspicions.

The following summer was a summer we later referred to as “the summer from hell.”  I actively searched but was unable to find a job, was having roommate problems, and was up against a self-worth dilemma I came later to call my “first quarter-life crisis” (and not my last, by a long shot).  Sarah, who was used to the company of others, struggled with living alone for the entire summer in a house she had rented with four other students, all of whom would not begin living there until September.  And that certainly wasn’t the sum of her troubles.  Spending time together lent us reprieve from the despair that ailed us.

On days when we felt particularly anxious, we would sprawl out on her couch under puffy duvets and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  There was a line in the film about the mean reds and I suppose we felt it described pretty accurately the way we were feeling.

Breakfast at Tiffany's film still

Breakfast at Tiffany’s film still. Licence: Fair Use (click image)

“The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.”

– Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Other days, laughter would consume us over the silliest things.  We would make up goofy show tunes and sing them at the top of our lungs, dancing around the house to our own ridiculous choreography.

It all sounds ludicrous and puerile but, without getting overly dramatic, there is a very good possibility that, without Sarah at my side that summer, I might not have made it to September and wouldn’t be writing this today.

Years later, when I married, Sarah was my best groomsmaiden.  I know it went against tradition to have a woman stand up for me on my wedding day, but who else would I want at my side but a friend with whom I had shared some of the best and worst days of my life?

Contact is rare nowadays.  Over the years, we moved apart and now live on opposite sides of the province; also, our schedules don’t match up very well.  But every now and again, we manage to get in touch, and we simply pick up where we last left off.

When I try to figure out why Sarah and I clicked together so well, I am sometimes at a loss.  But I think it’s just because we were a couple of misfits who found each other, not unlike Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak.

This post is dedicated to all the misfits, to best friends, and mostly to Sarah, who has added a little bit of sparkle to my life.  Today, I am thankful for her.

solitude

Sandra has gone away with the boys to visit her sister, and I have been left to my own devices for a few days.  This is a rare occurrence, and I feel rather like a schoolboy being trusted to stay home alone for the first time. I’m so wrapped up in a quandary of how best to squeeze all sorts of tomfoolery into this small allotment of time that I might end up accomplishing nothing much at all.  I cannot possibly fit in a viewing of all of those films that Sandra finds dull or absurd, and listen to music at firmamental volumes, and read all those books I’ve been neglecting, and get down to finishing that novel I started writing a couple years ago, and… How does one prioritize?! Continue reading

Sandra

Today is the fourth anniversary of my marriage to my wife and, today, I am thankful for her.

I wasn’t a huge fan of marriage before I proposed to Sandra. I was happy when other people found happiness in marriage, but just couldn’t see it working out for me. I had seen too many people fall in love and then watched it end in divorce and, sometimes, bitter hate. I had worked professionally with people who could no longer stand to be in the same room with each other and had devoted themselves obsessively to making their ex-partner’s life as miserable as possible, and their children were caught in the cross-fire.  When those people got married, they no doubt believed it would last forever. Who was I to think I was exempt from the power of time to erode our illusions?

The simple fact is people change over time.  Right now, yes, I can spend the rest of my life with this person, but what if she’s not the same person in 10 years?  What if I’m not the person I am now?  Sandra believed marriage was forever and, if I wanted to commit to her, I also had to commit to that ideology.  I’m not a big risk taker: with so many “what ifs,” I was wary of taking the plunge.

It occurred to me, though, that life is filled with the unexpected.  Sandra put a lot of stock in marriage: she saw it as a key to her happiness, and it wasn’t sufficient just to “be” together.  Maybe I would get hit by a bus tomorrow and I would have missed out on the opportunity of making her happy, and sharing in that happiness. The point is that we never know what the future will bring, so why allow it to enter into the equation?

The proposal wasn’t easy.  I forgot the ring for one thing. Not a good start. Then the weekend was filled with all the sorts of hurdles that made it not the weekend to propose, because it simply was not going to be perfect.  But then I realized that nothing in our lives has gone perfectly.  If anything, our first year together was a complete disaster, filled with one mishap after another.  In that sense, it was the perfect weekend to propose: imperfection – a microcosm of our entire relationship. Why not share imperfection and fight misfortune together?

When I said “I Do,” I was committing to loving Sandra for the rest of my life, and that was a committment I knew I could keep, regardless of what the future had in store for us.

Four years later, I can say that marriage has become easier with each year, and I feel more love for Sandra with each passing day.  Does she drive me nuts? Sure. More than anyone I know. But I feel joy when I know that I have the privilege of spending my life with a truly marvelous woman and phenomenal supermom; someone I love and — more meaningfully — trust; someone who still loves me even when I am at my worst.

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