one hundred years of lovin'

May 26, 2010

I grew up in a family of boys.

I was forever of the mind that they were to be challenged, and then beaten at their own game.

Gramps used to show me off. He loved it when I'd come, uncles and cousins gathered round and beg, "Gramps, I want a race. Start a race." He'd laugh, and say, "So you wanna race, huh?" loud enough for everyone to hear.

That was always the start. My uncles, and great uncles, would gather round to watch me beat the boys. I was never so proud (Gramps was never so proud) as when I crossed the finish line first.

I remember my great Uncle Rassie showing up from Southern California when I was sixteen, acne-ridden and self concious, and asking if I could still beat my cousins. I grinned, "Last time we raced I did, so let's stop while I'm ahead." You can only imagine the twinkle in his eye when I said that.
I was always the runner for "smear the queer." My oldest boy cousin, who I idolized, used to say "Shan's on my team," and I would follow him around, puppy-like, and do anything he said - so happy to be picked first.

Running meant being the "queer," thus the one getting "smeared" (I suppose we were terribly politically incorrect, and didn't know it) and I'm not sure whether it was my competitive drive, or sheer stupidity, that kept me coming back for more. He'd yell "RUN! RUN! RUN! SHAN RUN!" and I'd run like a bat out of hell, football tucked under my arm, feet moving as fast as I could go, knowing my take-down was imminent.

I never failed to scream at the top of my lungs just as soon as I started to be "smeared."

Somewhere around age twelve, my mom told me to stop chasing boys. I guess it happened from watching me play tag, watching me get "smeared," watching me take down in tackle football and refuse to let go - but at some point it started dawning on me that she was right, it wasn't me that was supposed to do the chasing. But I chased anyways.

I don't think I truly got what she was saying, until perhaps a week ago. Embarrasing, perhaps too much information for a woman trying to hold onto an oversized ego, but I don't think I'm alone.

My mother has always been one to crawl into bed with me when I was heartbroken, and remind me that she had times like mine - and how different her life is now. She told me of highschool boyfriends, dates gone wrong, and how she told my dad she liked him first, and how terribly that went until he came around.

Then she reminds me of what she has, and I sleep soundly with the knowledge that she was a girl like me, and now she's in a situation like hers. That knowledge is has been like fresh air and scouring powder to the beginnings of rotten emotion - my whole life.

My parents' relationship has always been a goad to me, reminding me of what I could have, and how wonderful my life could be. I don't know that many women have watched what I have watched in living with my parents - a man falling more in love with a woman - a woman, as she grows older, becoming more comfortable with herself, happier and happier as a woman, with her body how it is, her heart as it is - her self as she is. I don't know that many women watch their fathers watch their mothers and think, "I should hold out to be watched like that. The way he's looking at her is awfully powerful."

I watched her blush when he said she was his only vice, and shook my head at my brothers when she ran past us, squealing, to lock herself in a room with him banging on the door outside, flirting like I had with my high school boyfriend, except perhaps they were rowdier, and louder - and happier.

I've watched them argue, and I've seen her cry when he left the room - angry. I've seen him come back, ask forgiveness, and tell her he was wrong. I was technical support when he came to me, phone open, and asked how to get a picture of my mom as his background. I've seen letters, printed, and tacked up in the kitchen when was gone on business trips, watched jewelry get bought in honor of changes in his life, tangeable ways he wanted her to be reminded of how things would be different. I've watched them, afterward, be different.

I've begun to listen, as he comes to me, over this or that boyfriend - "I cannot see you with him, please don't go back, please don't take him back." I've learned to heed when she questions, and follows with, "I want what I have for you."

This week was 25 years for my parents. This month is 50 years for my grandparents, and this year is 25 years for my mom's sister and her husband.

Those one hundred years of marriage have played themselves out over my 21 years in a way that reminds me of what love can look like, that, like the Judds write, "Love is alive and at our breakfast table every day of the week/love is alive and it grows every day, at night, even in our sleep." I've danced with my mother in the kitchen as she belts out, "Love is alive and it's made a happy woman outta me - oh love is alive, and here by me."

I have lived it, breathed it, and grown up in its atmosphere.

I believe, in this place, at this time, in this season - all that love is coming together to turn my life in the direction that it should be going in. I'm learning to quit chasing, to start holding out for what I've been watching since I was old enough to run my heart out and scream when I got taken to the ground in my grandparent's yard.

How beautiful to be a woman whose family has taught her what it looks like when it's done right.


angela said...

best post yet. seriously. and maybe it's because i'm enamored with your mama. and maybe it's because i think your dad is wonderful. and mabye it's because i see in my parents what you see in yours and have had that same "goad" feeling you mentioned. maybe my failed relationships were sad attempts to emulate what i see modeled. maybe all of those things. and maybe i just love you and the way you word . . . everything.

Jess said...

I loved this, Shanley Jo! How I miss being in the company of Theodore and Tina. You are so blessed to have them as your parents! Thanks for sharing their example with the world.

Anastasia said...

that was beautiful. I hope my daughters have the same image of me and my husband.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this.

Phoenix said...

Ah, how I loved this post. My friends and I were just having a conversation the other day about how few marriages of our parents we could point to and say, "I want THAT."

You are so lucky that one hundred years of love has got your back. :)

Aaron Klein said...

Your parents are two of the most awesome people I know. Great tribute to them today. :)