Know Your Role

My Auntie Jo got married yesterday.

My aunt is in her early 70’s and so is her new husband. It is a 2nd marriage for them both, a marriage that came after careful thought and the blessings of both families and their combined legion of friends. When they promised each other “the autumn” of their lives, the bridegroom and a number of the wedding guests (including me) started to cry.

Then there was a reception at the hotel, and finally everyone went swimming in the hotel pool—including the bride and groom. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Daniel came as my guest. It was the first big occasion we had attended as a couple. Daniel fumbled when a wedding guest asked, “Are you Carrie’s husband?” I heard him say no, and hesitate, and I wondered what sort of answer he would come up with. It is a bit awkward identifying someone as a “boyfriend” when they ceased to be a boy several decades ago. “Friend” is a bit ambiguous, and “lover” clearly falls in the category of too much information.

Daniel is from a few hours north, in territory where hockey is a very big deal. They have legendary coaches who lead small town teams to feats of glory that are never forgotten by the players or the community. One of the coaches that Daniel remembers and admires had a saying Daniel is fond of repeating. “Know your role,” he said.

At first this exhortation bothered me. It seemed synonymous with keeping in your place or not having overly ambitious dreams. But then, I am not much of a hockey player.

And I agree it’s disorienting when you’re not sure of your role. When meeting someone new, I am often asked, “What do you do?” Trying to explain my transition from a person who had an actual job to someone who essentially putters around my small farmhouse and writes things was, for a long time, awkward. I fumbled with my answer to this seemingly harmless icebreaker.

I was unsure if I should describe what I used to do, which seemed irrelevant, or what I hoped to do, which seemed (again) like too much information. Sometimes I would just say, “I bake bread.” It was not the answer they were looking for, but most people like bread, and it was usually enough information to get by.

As I watched my aunt and new uncle at the alter, I realized they were also assuming new roles. The ceremony signified commitment, but I think their commitment to one another had already been made. The wedding was something more.

They were identifying themselves as someone’s husband and someone’s wife. They were having these roles blessed in front of others because it is important, as Daniel says, to know our role—not just on the ice rink, but in the world, in a family, in the community.

I still do not know what my life will look like in a week or a year. I wake up in the early morning some days in a panic, wondering what the heck I am doing, what my obligations are, who I am. But I am getting more comfortable with ambiguity, and there are a few things I know already.

I am a baker of bread, a loving aunt and daughter, and a girlfriend (though not a girl). I’m the owner of a well-traveled cat and an earnest young dog. I am a gardener and a writer and, most of the time, a pretty good friend. The rest, I suppose, will come in time.

Till next time,

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