We were, as Hepburn had hoped, “very married.” We were very married well before we were ever formally married by minister and by priest, under the sun on the east lawn of the grounds of her old high school, ringed by a cloud of witnesses whose combined vowed years totaled close to a millennium. We were very married when we first met each other in person for the first time, after years of emails and blogs and texts, the apocryphal voice of the Spirit saying to each, “Behold, your spouse.” Was it really like that? Or is that the story we have told so often that it must be? Apocrypha is perhaps most generous in this way: the details are soft and shifting, but the truth of a thing remains.
The apartment, our first, is apocrypha. It was one of those places that all newly married people believe they deserve to move into. Open floor plan. A modest but somehow lavish kitchen overlooking a living room space. A half-wall behind concealing a bedroom, bath, closet. The longest wall, brick from the mid 40s, dotted with massive windows. In New York, you live in this apartment if you’re licensed clinical therapist who takes house calls. In Waco, you live in this apartment when one of you is in grad school. Funny, how that works out.
For a year, we built our life toward together from previously apart. In the high hot summer, the air conditioning failed and our cheap stock of wine slowly roasted in its bottles such that it demanded drinking as quickly as possible. A boozy run of midsummer dotted our foundation. We stayed up too late watching movies and making French onion soup when all the grocers were closed and there was nothing much left in the cupboards. We learned each other, our limits and our loves. We learned prosody, the meter of one another, bodies returned to Eden.
This, as much as the day we formally married, was a work of vow-making. It was a work of weaving into one another. The cool of the concrete floor and the bitter dust of the exposed brick: these are the offering on the altar of memory, the most significant gift God sent the outcast creation into the wild of the world with. Again and again the call in the Scriptures is to remember and again and again it is startling to realize that we can. We’re just not often wont to.
But it was in that apartment we learned we were pregnant. It was pressed to the cold of the concrete we learned the first part of the diagnosis, leaned against the brick the second. I’m not sure where we learned the third, the fourth, or where we looked at each other and knew we could not live there anymore. Our child had needs the cozy flat in the quiet downtown could not meet.
I said we were very married, even then, but we have become ever more still. I am too young in years and in marriage to give advice about it. I am too aware of the differences carved into the soul of each of us to say my experience is universal. But I can say something, perhaps, of what the apocryphal apartment did for us.
We don’t have many boozy midsummers anymore. But we do have the foundation of their resiliency. We have the altar stones of what we’re about, what it means that we are joined and entwined. Those two tangled together, half-watching a movie and slurping soup, are the same who trade off doctors calls and insurance claims and Medicaid hearings. It’s not nostalgia. There’s no want to go back. Our son is radiance and joy and he makes in and with us a new foundation, a new place to call home.
But there will always be that apartment. There will always be those midsummer nights. In the still of our bed now, just past midnight when neither of us can sleep, there will be the snort of recognition of how fraught an air conditioning failure seemed then, how good it is to be who we are now.
Once upon a time, Preston Yancey wrote books. Now, he helps manage and onboard nonprofits with Pure Charity. He likes to cook, binge-watch esoteric TV, and mostly eshews social media these days.
Welcome to a guest series I’m calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in part, because later this year, I’m publishing a book called, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, May 2017). I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment.
The story of Jesus is a home story.
Thanks for joining me and these other fantastic writers in the months ahead in our search for home—and the God who makes its hope possible.