“When I married your father, though, I gladly took his last name. No, not because it was expected or traditional; it was because I genuinely loved him, through and through, no question. I was happy to join my life to his and give up an extremely important part of my identity in uniting myself to him. And believe me, this was not something at all whimsical on my part. I gave it all a great deal of consideration.”
They were in the living room, with Moxie curled up in one corner of the davenport and her mother seated in the other. They’d been talking about her relationship with Able, ideas and plans for their possible marriage, and what Moxie considered really important in making that kind of lifelong commitment. Her mother decided to shift gears somewhat abruptly, and for good reason.
“Your father was handsome and charming, and he didn’t drink or use drugs or even any form of tobacco. Not that he was strict and rigid, by any means. He was just … well, he seemed to be a good, down-to-earth, likeable fella, you know? He was not abusive either, like my father. Unfortunately, as I discovered of course, he lacked some very necessary qualities, such as: sense and sensibility, to borrow from Jane Austin, and consistency, as well as an appreciation for responsibility. His tank ran empty on self-giving love, dependability, and of course, commitment.”
Lucent paused for a moment. The silence was heavy with emotion she very rarely displayed. Tears started welling up in her eyes. “It hurt. It hurt like hell… Yeah, by the time he left, I was ready for him to go … but it still hurt like hell… I didn’t want my marriage to turn out the way it did … not for a minute.” She lowered her eyes. “I didn’t want that for me or you.” Lucent looked Moxie level in the eyes again. “But it did turn out that way, and so I did have to be strong and determined and confident, and, thank God, I have been … and I was damn sure my baby girl would be, too… I don’t regret that at all, but…”
As Moxie stared up from her bed at the ceiling now, hands behind her head, body very still, she felt the same melancholic discomfort she had felt that day. She was not at all frightened or angry or irritated. She wondered if she had even been shocked. Maybe … probably somewhat surprised, but not really shocked. No, she’d been sad and she was still sad for her mother; nevertheless, she was grateful for the conversation, too. Well, if you could rightly call it a conversation; her mother shared a great deal and Moxie listened … very intently.
“Well, Moxie, independence is fine enough, as I’ve always said, but better yet is loving, healthy interdependence.”
Moxie remembered chuckling at the time. “Now you’re sounding like Reverend Brighterday.”
“Yeah,” Lucent smiled. “Probably so, since I learned this valuable lesson from her.” She winked at Moxie. “Two or three times, at least, I’ve heard her say – and you have too, of course – that ‘we live in a society of radical individualism, which is a radical distortion of what God intended. Certainly, God did not intend codependency; that’s also a distortion. However, God did intend communities of interdependence, the heart of which are families, as an iconic reflection of the divine community. As no man is an island unto himself, neither is God in holy tri-unity.’”
“Wow! You’ve got that down pat!” Moxie exclaimed.
“Well, my dear, it’s just that important. I never wanted to be a single mother. You know,” Lucent couldn’t help a slight chortle, “it’s not like every girl’s dream, right?” Moxie smiled and laughed a little, too. No, it certainly wasn’t every girl’s dream. “And it wasn’t mine, either… You were and are the most precious blessing I’ve ever received in my life, Moxie, but … it can get mighty damn cold and lonely in bed at night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hugged my pillow imaging – or trying to, anyway – that it was my companion, my soul mate, whoever that might be… Most of those nights I ended up falling asleep with wet cheeks and a damp pillow.”
Moxie turned onto her side. It was one o’clock in the morning now, but she still wasn’t particularly sleepy … or she didn’t think she was until she stifled a yawn. Suddenly she thought about how comfortable her bed was … and her room, and her home, and her neighborhood … all made possible by her mom. She never really knew how painfully difficult and costly it had been for her mother to provide all of this, and so much more, until that day when her mom threw her heart and soul wide open. It was, of course, the right time; in fact, the perfect time. Moxie was an adult in an adult relationship with an attractive, affection, intelligent and talented young man. They were seriously considering marriage. Yes, it was exactly the right time.
“Moxie, I couldn’t be happier for you … you and Able. And keeping your last name certainly doesn’t bother me; in fact, it makes me proud to know that you’re so proud of your name, your family name. That’s important, and I know it’s not traditional for the man to take on the woman’s last name but, hey, all traditions had a beginning some time and many traditions have had an ending, too. So if Able is growing more comfortable with the idea, then I don’t imagine it’ll be any problem. Besides, with the really tough decisions Able’s had to make, and with his family practically disowning him…”
“I think they have disowned him, completely,” Moxie shot in. “So far as I can tell, it’s been a decidedly clean break on their part.”
“Well, o.k., then that’s even more reason why Able might eventually be not only comfortable with assuming our family name but even pleased with it; he may very well want a fresh identity, so to speak. O.k. All well and good, but…” her mother switched to teacher/lecture mode now, “when you talk about separate bank accounts, automobiles in each of your names only, separate churches, if so desired, or no church at all for one or both of you…” Lucent shook her head. “And even being adamant about each of you choosing your own clothing, dividing the grocery list … heaven’s Moxie. Yes, you’re talking about some kind of relationship, but you’re not talking about marriage. Even if you have a church wedding and get the paper license, you’re still not talking about marriage, and you won’t really be in marriage.”
Her mother’s point had sort of stunned Moxie at the time, but on the other hand she’d already felt like she was being too obdurate and even silly … so she offered no response. Her mother was telling her what she needed to hear, like always.
“Moxie, marriage is very serious business, and I know you know that, but it’s also dangerous. And it’s dangerous because it is so serious; in fact, sacred. In marriage – genuine marriage – you are binding yourself to another flesh-and-blood human being and, in a very real sense, becoming one life. Of course, you still retain your unique self; both of you do, but come down to it, you share far more in common than not … in an authentically loving, strong and healthy marriage. Anything less is … well, maybe kind of a pseudo-marriage. You know what I mean? It may look like the real thing for awhile and sound like it, feel like it, smell like it … but it’s bogus. Fake. Fraudulent. And eventually you find that out, and then the game’s over. I know, and like I said before from my own experience, even if you’re ready for it to end, it’ll still hurt like hell.”
“You have to ask yourself more than, ‘Do I really love Able? How much, how deeply do I love him? Do I love him enough to want to spend the rest of my life with him?’ Those are all important questions, very important, but there’s another one that’s equally important, if not more so, and that is, ‘Do I trust Able? How much, how deeply do I trust him? How far does my trust go, and how long will it last?’” Her mother intensified her gaze, which let Moxie know she was going up to another level of seriousness … something she didn’t think possible at the time. “Where there is no trust, there is no marriage. Where there is trust, there is vulnerability. That’s the hell of it, really. You can’t have marriage without love and trust, and trust means vulnerability, and so marriage means making yourself vulnerable to the other person.”
“There’s a verse in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans where he tells his readers to ‘offer themselves as a living sacrifice to God.’ In the sanctity of true marriage, you’re really doing something just like that … both of you. Both of you have to have, and freely offer, what your father lacked, and could not offer; that is: sense and sensibility, consistency, dependability, commitment, honor and integrity, and above all self-giving love. All of this – these golden virtues – will naturally be tightly interwoven with the beautiful cloth of trust to make the even more beautiful tapestry of marriage.”
“So, no separate bank accounts and cars; no dividing up the furniture into mine and yours, and nix the equal but separate grocery shopping.” Moxie offered rather pathetically. “You’re saying it’s not ‘mine and yours,’ but ‘ours.’”
“Well, Mox, if you start out by separating everything, then you’re not really planning a marriage; you’re preparing for a divorce.” That hit good and hard, straight to the heart. “So, yes, I’m saying it’s not ‘mine and yours,’ but ‘ours.’ But Moxie, I’m saying so much more, too. Oh my … You’re very intelligent, sharp; you’re very discerning. I know you understand what I’ve said, Moxie. Marriage is like the cross, and you and Able are the cross-beam that should be, must be firmly nailed to and perfectly balanced upon the larger vertical beam. The larger vertical beam is everything I’ve been talking about in an authentically good, strong, healthy marriage. This is something you’ve got to think through, something about which you even need to pray, Mox.”
And that night she did just that; she prayed. She hadn’t prayed since, but that night, for the first time in a long while, she actually got down on her knees by her bed and prayed… After stifling another yawn, Moxie decided it was time to pray again.