On a night like tonight, it doesn’t matter that summer’s over and winter is coming; the stillness of a cool October evening soothes overworked neurotransmitters. I didn’t fall in love with fall until I fell in love with Charming… about this same time two years ago. Fall brought Charming, and together they were a calm, cool, refreshing breeze to soothe the burns resulting from my summer of online dating.
It was also about this time that Charming made the drive from DC to Hampton for the first time, a weekend of dates. Only acquaintances in college, we were really just getting to know one another, and the thirty-something divorced versions of us only moderately resemble the carefree passion of a college kid. A friend recently shared a picture of a group of us from a Roulette my freshman year at Wheaton. In a Roulette, your whole floor went on an outing where your roommate picked your date for you. Kate had naturally chosen my brother’s best friend as a safe, platonic choice, and he was on one side of me.
On the other, however, with just his date standing between us, was Charming, grinning eagerly just like me at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago sixteen years ago. It was a different life, a different us, in an October long forgotten or dis-remembered by the sheer volume of comedies, romances, and tragedies that would strike and stun and sink and soar until we found ourselves in a Hampton October, together on a date. I took Charming to Fort Monroe beach that first time because I wasn’t sure the weather would give us another chance or if fate would even give us another date. I wanted to share with him this place that made me feel surrounded by peace because the vast reach of the ocean and sand makes me feel as small as I really am.
Though not a beach person himself, Charming supports my infatuation with the salty shoreline. In the summer, he’ll sweat it out for me because he knows me now. I’m not a girl in a picture with a person between us. That first day, it was chilly where we needed sweaters to shield us from a chilly ocean breeze, and I’ve come to learn that is how he prefers to experience the grandeur of the sea, especially framed by one of God’s sunset murals over the Chesapeake Bay. In two years’ time, Charming must have reached the conclusion that the benefit of a beach recharge for me outweighs the heat’s draining effects on him.
My sophomores took their first proficiency test to assess their mastery of the basic elements of a short story like setting and plot as well as archetypes and universal themes. When I reflect on the past weekend, I’m finding meaning in all the little details that are often overlooked. I try to impart the importance of practicing our crafts to improve in them, and I model that with my blog each week; still, when I teach a concept again, even if it’s for the eleventh time, the review reinforces prior learning. I grow right along with my adolescents.
I never wanted to have a wedding at a beach. I never wanted a destination wedding. I never imagined that a wedding could end up being an opportunity for Charming and I to be intentional about all the details that would end up giving me a new dream for what I never knew I wanted. Though I wasn’t aware while making choices together over the past month, the wedding plan that’s materialized is incredibly fitting, as if by God’s design.
We drove down to the Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon after our first pre-marital counseling session. During the week, my school owns me, but this weekend was entirely Charming’s. We started with our leading option for the reception. On the pier overlooking the ocean, it was certainly romantic with a certain character and charm that appealed to me, but we had some doubts to discuss after leaving the office. Charming led me back up to the pier and asked me to marry him with my real ring, the one he picked with the diamond he chose…
…and I have been distracted writing this whole blog because it glistens on my finger, and my students could tell you what the circle archetype represents. On my finger, I get to see a constant reminder of the completeness, the wholeness, the unity of my forever and always with Charming. It’s painful to know that I used to wear another ring on that finger, that I made a promise and a vow that I broke, that after my divorce, the circle of metal failed to fulfill its archetypal expectations. A broken circle has a different meaning altogether.
At the same time, I know Charming picked out another ring for another woman, and that circle was broken, too. We’ve both experienced a wedding, a marriage, and a divorce. Our journey through the last eight seasons of life has taught us so much about ourselves, and for me, it’s ultimately brought me to my knees in prayer. It was right that Charming proposed on the beach in Fort Monroe and presented me with my perfect ring on the pier in Kitty Hawk. Fort Monroe was the beginning of our dating life, and the Outer Banks will be the beginning of our married life.
The archetype of the sea associates in two ways: it can be vast and dangerous, chaotic and intimidating, but the waves themselves symbolize eternity or infinity. Charming likes the beach for me, but we both love the beach for our week-long vacation with family and friends culminating in a church ceremony and a reception on the water. Maybe not at this pier, but with my engagement ring in its rightful, permanent place, we headed up to Duck Methodist Church to peek in the windows and confirm the venue for our ceremony. Now, this was just like I pictured when I was a little girl: the white church with the steeple and heavenly light streaming in from the windows flooding the pews.
The strong breeze from the ocean made it feel colder than it was, but we didn’t miss the opportunity to walk down the boardwalk behind the church, hand in hand. We watched the sun set over the Sound, and I mentally scanned all archetypes we talked about last week. The sun can symbolize the Father figure and the passage of life. Water itself represents new life, like when Charming and I both had our sins washed away in baptism. The triangle is the symbol for trinity, and that applied, too. Hand in hand, we formed just the bottom. That setting Sun over the sound completed the shape.
We checked out a second venue location down in Nag’s Head on a whim, not expecting much. Yesterday, we mailed in the deposit. It was farther from the church, but perfect for our wedding vision. Driving back from the OBX to Hampton in the dark, I was lighter. In July, we’re going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married in the eyes of God and all our family and friends. At four o’clock in the afternoon, a number that symbolizes the life cycle and nature’s seasons, we will exchange vows and rings that promise and represent our forever union.
I have peace in the sunset with Charming because the circle isn’t the only shape determining the outcome of our marriage. Inside the walls of the white church with a steeple I’d dreamed of since I was a little girl, we’ll know that beyond us the ocean is raging, vast and dangerous, chaotic and intimidating, even as we commit to a union as eternal as the seas. Then, we’ll head down to Jennette’s Pier on the water to celebrate new life and new beginnings. The Father controls all of it. He’s the Creator of archetypes and the Creator of me and my future husband.
The sun will set over the Sound and be a symbol to all gathered of the daily renewal that comes in a relationship between three: hand in hand on land with God holding up our free arms. We’re aiming for a story with a happy ending this time. And I’d say our budding plans for our Outer Banks wedding set the stage up with just the right archetypal elements for a “love conquers all” theme to emerge in the resolution.