Piecing the Promise (A Form Poem) American Marriage Piecing life, Piecing memories Colorful, creative, meaningful, honest Commitment Stitched, patterned, diverse, thematic, traditional Quilt Thoughtfully Covenant Sacramentally Couple Each piece within the Quilt leads to the quality of the bound whole American Quilt ***************************
This was the form poem that I wrote before writing the editorial piece below. It was based on thoughts I had, back 25 years ago, after watching the movie ‘How to Make an American Quilt’. I had many conflicting feelings at the time after having been abandoned with dependent children and having to re-build my life around the after-shocks of that event. I was looking for honesty, similar to what the main character, Finn, was looking for. I was looking for a pathway back to trust and a belief in Love and Commitment in Marriage. The movie can still be found on AmazonPrime for a small rental fee of $3.99: I watched it again, after 25 years, and still find it to be an honest portrayal of conflicts surrounding the decision to marry. I believe in the lifetime commitment of marriage and I also believe it’s an aspiration that many might strive toward yet not be able to achieve. Most of all I believe in Love. Marriage isn’t necessary in achieving this commitment of wanting the ultimate good for a loved one. I’ve had relationships with a man since my 20 year marriage and those relationships helped me to learn about life and myself. Serial marriages aren’t necessary to achieve this higher good for yourself and others. (Let me know if you have any thoughts you’d like to add to this reflection.)
How to Make an American Quilt
“But how do you merge into this thing called COUPLE, and still keep a little room for yourself?Tweet
And how do we even know if we’re only supposed to be with one person for the rest of our lives?”
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in seeking the answer to these questions asked by Finn, Winona Ryder’s character in the movie, How to Make an American Quilt. The past two decades have seen many different interpretations of what marriage can mean; leaving a cynicism about the value of lifelong commitment. Lifetime commitment seems next to impossible, and ‘serial monogamy’ is a common thread running through today’s society. A young woman seeks honesty and openness about this institution which forms society’s tradition for male and female relationship; for she has come to fear that the individual cost to herself within the institution might be too high.
Piecing together the promises made in a marriage resembles piecing together the squares in a quilt. They can be joined together without thought, without intimacy and continuity, or they can be joined together in a way that becomes sacrament, a living covenant of people sharing in the process of creating the memories and life stories found within its border. What is the future of lifelong marriage? Is it an impossible dream? Or can we, both women and men, come to value its meaning in a new way – carefully selecting the quality pieces of tradition while interweaving the basic human right to be ourselves, without apology or guilt, and to be treated as equals.
How to Make an American Quilt invites the honesty and openness of all those involved in the couple’s life. Each patch within the quilt represents the story of the older women in the group-their joys and sorrows, their failures to stand up for themselves when exploited and, most important of all, their ability to forgive and move forward in their lives. The experienced quilter, Anna, reminds the group that this is a Love Quilt, a Story Quilt of the Life Before, and none of the squares can detract from the others. ‘We will follow the rules of design!’, she cautions. The young novice quilter, her daughter, poses the paradox of marriage, ‘Sometimes you have to break the rules to keep the work alive.’ For some the commitment ends because one partner removes themselves from the pattern of the quilt; and for some the stitches remain connected, and a new life stage begins to unfold. Emma, who has lived in a marriage of broken rules for thirty years, is ready to leave yet finds a way to forgive and move forward with her life.
“Young lovers seek perfection –
Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together and seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches.”
The art of sewing shreds together needs the guidance of those who say they value marriage and families. Too often those who struggle with piecing together the promises made in marriage feel alone in their journey. There is a silence within our religions where we are taught that marriage is a living sacrament – a sign of God’s presence in the world.
In the past, marriage and family have been seen as a ‘woman’s thing’. It should be the woman who ‘keeps the nest, while the man fluffs his feathers’. Today’s woman seeks a mutual freedom within a marriage which doesn’t disregard the other, and she hopes that the man in her lift will be a co-creator in this new perspective of marriage. The ‘American Quilt’ can only be strengthened when both of the stitchers are equal participants in all that brings new creativity, color and design to the finished piece.
Finn asks the question, and from the open and honest responses of those around her, she is given strength to follow her own good insights and to follow her heart.
‘I know our marriage has as good a chance of being wonderful as it does of missing the mark. However, I’m banking on our love for each other to weigh a bit heavier on the wonderful side. As Anna says about making quilts, ‘You have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull its colors and hide their original beauty.’
“Love is not affectionate feelings, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.“
C. S. Lewis