Friday, February 25, 2011

Reflections on Wisdom and Wedding Registries

My mom once mentioned to me that the point of bridal showers used to be for generations of women with experience of marriage to bestow their knowledge unto young brides who could then benefit from what they'd learned. I think it's a shame that our generation no longer gets those benefits. Instead, I've registered for exactly the things *I* want. We're making these choices with no first-hand knowledge of what marriage will entail. I'll be benefitting from product descriptions and reviews, not aunts and great-aunts and cousins with hundreds of years of married life between them. How indicative of our independent, self-sufficient, isolated, and soulless society. 

Our engagement presents were uniformly generous, thoughtful, and much-appreciated. All stand out in some way - some were handmade, some particularly generous, some particularly "us." Two stick out because, I've realized, they hearken back to this idea of gleaning wisdom from those who have come before us - even if, in certain cases, they've come less than a year before us! Our friends Jeff and Michelle got us The Marriage Covenant by Derek Prince, complete with a note about how valuable they'd found it when they read it in Pre-Cana, and which concepts they'd found particularly useful in their relationship. We, of course, made a point of reading it and discussing the parts they'd found worthwhile, wanting to gain from their experience of having been just where we are - even if they'd only been there a few months ago! (They weren't even married yet!)

The other "wisdom" gift we got was from my cousins Laura and Keith and their family. Laura wrote in the card, "So I thought to myself, 'What do all "old-married" Gatto women need? A black coffee pot!'" (We cousins are Gatto women, though none of us by name, and a "black coffee pot" is what we call what other people seem to refer to as an "espresso maker." I searched for "black coffee pot," and all I got were pictures of brown coffee pots that were black!) At the time, I couldn't have told you why, but a huge grin spread over my face when I opened Laura and Keith's gift. It was clear that she was drawing on her 9 (?) years of marriage and her knowledge of what our family's party hosting practices look like and figuring out exactly what I needed. I felt inducted in adulthood. I imagined future Sunday dinners, serving black coffee to my husband, cousins, uncles, Grandpa. I didn't have to worry about whether I wanted or needed a black coffee pot, because someone else had taken it upon herself to share her wisdom with me. What a perfect system!

I recognize my idealistic nostalgia for what it is. I understand that in the pre-registry days, people used to get 6 toasters as wedding gifts, because there was no way of organizing who was passing on which bits of wisdom. But what's worse? Duplicate wisdoms, or ignoring our need to turn to others for wisdom?

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