On Marriage, Community, and Polly Pockets
I had the opportunity, recently and serendipitously, to visit a dear friend of mine I hadn’t seen since college, the week after his wedding. Literally hours after they arrived home from their honeymoon, this wonderful couple came and picked me up at my hotel. As they came through the revolving doors, I gathered them into a tight hug.
We ate a celebratory dinner, and talked about the wedding, and the honeymoon. I reveled in seeing my friend, one of the few I’ve managed to keep in touch with since college, and got to know his new wife with delight, overjoyed at how well they were suited.
We went to Target, to buy a few things for their brand-new apartment, and to pick out a wedding present. Somewhere in this process, I realized that we’d forgotten to take a picture at dinner, and that we needed one. I stopped a passerby and handed him my phone. He looked utterly befuddled, “You want a picture here, in Target?”
Yes, please, here in real life.
I helped them unpack, even having a chance to try out the spiffy new vacuum cleaner, and we continued to talk and laugh.
At one point, I was helping this new wife with something in a closet when we spotted a box filled with something I found familiar.
For the next hour, we opened each small compact and inspected the little Pollys and their friends. We reminisced about the hours we’d spent, as young girls, looking at each corner of the tiny spaces, making-believe with girls about the size of our now-adult fingernails, saving up for new ones and talking about which ones had been our favorites.
As I sat on the floor, surrounded by stacks of books, boxes of clothes and gifts still in their wrapping, I was suddenly struck by how short the time had been since we’d played with these plastic treasures. How short was the walk from Polly’s fanciful houses, to this grown-up, married person's apartment?
We talked, long into the night. And as we did, I couldn’t help thinking about a passage from, arguably, my favorite Lauren Winner book, Mudhouse Sabbath. In it, she talks about marriage this way:
“At the heart of weddings – because also at the heart of marriage – is the balance between privacy of marriage and community. Marriage, to be sure, is an intimate matter, the making of a partnership that knits two people together in secret and inside ways (just consider what Adam says of Eve: ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’) But it is a pernicious myth of modernity that marriage is merely private: Marriage is also a community endeavor. It is your friends and family who help you stay straight and true when your marriage feels too crooked or curvy. It is your sister or best friend or bridesmaid who can remind you why you ever married him in the first place. It is the neighbor or confidant who is just outside the thing who can sometimes tell you the truth about it.”
That night, as I played with Polly Pockets, and vacuumed the carpet and listened to stories, and plans, I felt like I was at one of those Jewish wedding feasts which go long into the night for days after the ceremony, baptizing the couple, newly coupled, into community, whether they want to be, or not.
I have often thought about this passage, thinking about it from the perspective of what I want to do, when I get married. Now, I’m thinking differently. I’m realizing that the married couples in my life need my support, my prayers, my fellowship, just as the single people do. Marriage is a community endeavor, as Lauren says, and we are all called to community together: married, single, young and old.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female ; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:28]