Math has never been my best subject, I am more inclined towards words, letters. When a teacher in 5th grade taught me to diagram sentences, creating lines and trees on paper, I found the best use for graph paper. I later went on to take advanced algebra in summer school, a rush to fit in all of my credits, squeezing in room for more English Lit courses, thus I learned it for the test and then let it slide away as I went swimming. What I do know of math is this, when you get married, you add. You bring in this person you have chosen and ask them to not only accept all of your lovable parts but also your quirks and not so great parts. Then you ask them to do the same with your family of origin. This is where sometimes math gets tricky.
When my Chef introduced me to his mother, the kindest most generous crazy woman who has no filter on her mouth or thoughts who does not understand the concept of boundaries, I was accepted. I still question her wisdom but that is a different story. Nevertheless, Chef and I and his mom and his two brothers became a wider family. My family was surely easy for Chef to love, after all they were my family. Certainly I came with two children, an ex-husband, a battered relationship with my own mother and her odd pick of replacement husband (see how I feel about that one?) and of course my brother and sister-in-law. My family required no adjustments, they were mine. Understanding the nuances and communication styles of his though, that was like multiplication. I didn’t always feel like I had added just one mother-in-law, she is a powerhouse. She often speaks loudly, forcefully, pulls weeds in my flower beds and makes plans with my Chef without talking to me. For holidays. That he agrees to. Without talking to me. Well, mostly we have corrected that one, but still, the math was hard. I wasn’t always sure about this addition. It would have felt much easier to have just married Chef and move him to Lisa Island where I knew all the inhabitants, my family. But that would have been division. More math. Bad math. Easier, more comfortable for me, not so for my Chef.
The truth is that had I created or pushed for that bad math, I would have missed out on the richness that has developed between me and my mother-in-law. She accepted me first, it took me longer. I love this crazy boisterous extended family, so unlike what I experienced as a child. I know Chef loves the children I brought into the relationship as if he had been there from the beginning, I know how deeply he loves my brother and sister-in-law. We allowed the math problems to become celebrations as we added more and more. (Special note: we have not added in the ex-husband. I am not crazy.)
My point is this: math is hard for some of us, marriage is hard for most of us. Both start with the basics we learn in kindergarten though, just keep adding. We don’t learn to take away for some time, multiplication comes next and division is the very last thing learned, like a last resort. If we consider dividing as our first response to added family members, we are just doing the math wrong. As an English major I can state this with authority. As a mother with an estranged daughter who was wooed away by a new love, I can proclaim it from the mountaintops. Division is bad. I propose we focus on adding, seeing the good and working through the hard. I propose we leave advanced math to God who does the taking away. Let’s just keep adding more to who we love and to who we accept and who we invite to our dinner tables and our flower beds. Let’s add to who we forgive and who we offer mercy and grace and peace to, we may just discover one day we can no longer remember which ones we started with and which ones were supplemental. A blurred family tree with lines that even a math teacher couldn’t graph, connecting points intersecting and reaching out, across. Oops, I think I moved into geometry. Or Algebra again? Math is hard. Marriage is harder. Lets just add.