Sunday, December 11, 2011

Morpho Peleides

I've decided to sell my china. It's not a complete set, only some pieces, and I feel detached from it now. Years ago, however, after we got married, I was taken by Portmeirion's Botanic Garden pattern. It was English, and included not only butterflies and bees with the plants, but also the Latin names. At the time, I was reading a lot of A. S. Byatt, whose novel Still Life, includes a chapter called "Names of Grasses," listing both the English and Latin names. In many ways, the novel acknowledges the power of naming. Byatt says herself,
I had the idea, when I began this novel, that it would be a novel about naming and accuracy. I wanted to write a novel as Williams said a poem should be -- no ideas but in things (Byatt, Still Life, 323).


That summer Marcus had a vision of the world as a globe marked out not only by flowing stripes of water and huge nets of roots, sliding sands and towering rocks, but by a kind of human love, not grabbing, not consuming, not even humanizing, but simply naming the multidinous things to be seen, for the sake of seeing them more clearly (Byatt, Still Life, 322).

It's hard to step back and simply call things what they are, simply name.  I wasn't a china girl; I was more of a Chinet girl. We eloped. We were not in the category of couples who register and get china, or crystal, or fine silverware. When I look back, it's amazing we made it. Everything was an idea bigger than us. It's hard to enter into that, headstrong, and have the courage to simply name it. Someone might have named it dumb.

The Chapel of Love, Las Vegas
I wasn't raised in a culture of fanfare. Most of my attempts at ceremony, at celebration, at recognition were met firmly with an acknowledgment of my place: last. And in the mid-90s, I wasn't looking for a traditional wedding, in fact, had it been expected, I might have rejected the offer. I would have been happy with the rebellion of scaling back, of marrying outside the church, of wearing something not white.

But that's not who we are. My own parents were married in a courthouse, and truth be told, they probably would have advised me to do the same thing. Somehow, without much forethought, I saved us the uncomfortable You don't really want a wedding, do you? conversation, and eloped before it became much of an issue. I wouldn't trade the elopement. It was perfect. There was only us. It was only $200: pictures, flowers, limo and video included.

My rebellion is often reactionary. I wanted to go to church, and not just go -- but be confirmed, to be official. I wanted at least that recognition. I wanted to the pressure of going to college.  I wanted to rebel by going to college for something I loved, not something that was practical. I wanted someone to know that I loved something, more than anything. I want to use the good china on holidays, and dress up. I want a tree with lots of lights, or two trees, as we've done for the past few years. I wanted ceremonies for my kids. Baptisms and First Communions. So they would know just how much they matter. Because we do matter. As Phil Memmer says in his poem, "You Are Worth Many Sparrows,"

      We matter that much. We matter
      that much, at the least.

They will rebel, of course, against fanfare. want to wear beanies at the table, or eat at TV trays in the living room. (An option not yet presented to them, but boy, if they knew they could.)

It's who they are.

1 comment:

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