We celebrated our parents sixtieth wedding anniversary the day after Thanksgiving and while taking family pictures in the church sanctuary at the Dewey Church, I saw light emanating from the holy of holies, the door leading to the inner room where some of my family changed into baptismal garments before being immersed in living water. As children, we were not allowed to venture into this mysterious hallway.
My brothers and I walked to the open door and peered inside, to see what mischief our college and high school age sons were finding in the mysterious hallway leading to the baptistery.
Stashed in this hallway near the podium on the north side is a large chalkboard on wheels. We watched as Brandon, Jacob and Drew expounded on the world they know wielding only a stick of chalk and their minds and a language that they understand, meteorology, math, and physics. The chalkboard was covered with equations that I didn’t understand, pulse compression, calculus, algebra, for all I know, they were working toward an understanding of silly string theory. I understood none of it and realized this generation is closing in fast and I lack their savvy and skills.
We Taylor brothers are not mathematicians. I’m a homebuilder, Toby is a physician, and Greg is a Gospel minister. We all three married women of numbers, high school math teachers. Our sons received from their mothers the gift of numbers, data, quantity, structure, space, models, and change.
Many of our daughters and nieces embrace the gift of poetry. The rhythm and grace of a healthy considered meal deliciously cooked by my daughter Jenna, the dietetics major. The expressions and elegance and passion of Toby’s daughter Emma singing a lovely broadway song called “Pulled” from the Adams Family musical during our family talent show. Niece Hannah expresses her poetic gift as a wonderful writer, nurse and friend to seemingly everyone she touches.
We are poets and mathematicians. When children are born, we write poetry, and explore possibilities. When we celebrate sixty years of marriage, we marvel and do the math, comparing our own marriages by fractal comparison, our own married tenure compared to the celebrated one. Possibility and reality, beginning and end, poetry and mathematics, the story lived out in the days between those bookends.
I remember vacationing with my family as a sixteen year old kid. We were in Orlando. I flew back alone to Tulsa for a golf tournament. I remember that first jet trip as a coming of age moment, even as I felt alone leaving my family in Orlando. I felt a sense of independence, that my Dad and Mom had enough confidence in me to let me fly back alone. I flew Delta Airlines and listened to canned airline music on my headphones from the early Seventies and late Sixties, Eric Clapton’s Layla and Marry Me Bill by the Fifth Dimension. It wasn’t quite as manly a coming of age moment as the Inuit Indians sending off a sixteen year old brave into the Arctic Sea in a sealskin canoe to hunt for caribou on a distant island, but it made me feel grown up. I also listened on my headphones to Carly Simon sing, Well That’s the Way We’ve Always Heard it Should Be. She was singing about her parents and about how she thought marriage was supposed to be and how it really was.
I tiptoe past the master bedroom where, My mother reads her magazines.
I hear her call sweet dreams, But I forgot how to dream.
But you say it’s time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me –
Well, that’s the way I’ve always heard it should be: You want to marry me, we’ll marry.
I remember the hauntingly beautiful voice of Carly Simon singing about parents who had failed to convey and live out the dream, marrying for no reason other than it’s the way I’ve always heard it should be.
Mom and Dad gave us no sense that love and marriage was easy. We saw the tears, the hurt, the trials, not just of marriage, but of life.
The poetry, the math, the story written with chalk on a sixty year old board, scrawled with equations spilling over the borders, overflowing with love and imperfection, grace and blessings, family and friends.
Thanks for teaching us poetry Mom, and thanks Dad for doing the hard math, and for writing a story that never really ends. It lives on in holy places and back alleys, and in mysterious hallways on blackboards filled with equations, poetry, and stories that overflow the margins of our understanding.