“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy I thought of the opening lines of Anna Karenina as I watched my ecstatic son and daughter-in-law marry each other on Saturday. I thought about all the histories that had brought them there, about the future they envisioned together, and about the meaning of the seemingly simple ceremony that joined them. And I thought that each family creates its own balance of happiness and sadness as it faces the vagaries that life throws its way.
We spend much of our lives navigating between individuation and communal attachment, between asserting “I am” and longing for “we are.” In a civil ceremony in a non-denominational church, Jake and Emily spoke of a marriage in which each of them could grow and both of them could grow together. They spoke of the role of the “we” in preserving the “I” and the importance that each as an individual brings to both of them as a couple.
That concept of marriage often gets overwhelmed. In some cultures it remains little more than the transfer property. In others it is solely for dynastic or religious procreation. In our own, it has spawned an ugly debate about who can marry whom. Marriage is not bondage. It is a celebration of the most intimate of all love – that between two people, often but not always young.
After the ceremony we all marched through the streets of town behind a brass band playing songs of joyful celebration.