I Got Married Today....

...36 years ago. In 1971, I was 18. My husband was 17. We were going to have a baby. That baby is 35 years old today. Her name is Alisa. Today she has babies of her own. She was precious to me then; she is precious to me now. The difference in my love for her then and my love for her now: Then I was scared to death. Now I am... what? Older, calmer, saner, wiser?

Today I am resolute, that's what I am. But I was resolute then, too. I just knew nothing, nothing about marriage, about being a mother, about being an adult! I was resolute in my love for my daughter, even before I met her. I remain resolute in my love for her today.

I'm learning how to talk about this time in my young life. I'm learning that, as harrowing as it sometimes was, there was so much beauty in those years. I'm learning how to tell my stories with as much truth as I can muster. The more I tell my stories, the more truth I discover and reveal. There is an AA saying I love: "We're only as sick as our secrets." I can hear my mother's response now: "They aren't secrets; they're just nobody else's business!" and perhaps she would be right. My mother was circumspect, and a product of her generation. A product of the American South as well. As am I.

But I came of age in the Sixties, when rules were broken and taboos were split wide open at the seams. I was split wide open, too. I tried desperately to Band-aid my life together. For years I was defined -- and judged -- by my statistics: Unwed mother, teenage bride and mother, battered wife, two children by the time I was 21, divorced at 22, disowned daughter, homeless person, working mother, twice-married woman... the list goes on. And on.

Somewhere long-about 40, I started to understand that I had stories to tell and that telling those stories would save me. Other people's courage to tell their stories was what helped me see that mine had value, that my life held within it the seeds to be of good use to someone else, to my children, and to myself.

That's when I got serious about writing for children. I wanted to remember the child I had been, the child who had wanted to be loved, to belong, to be safe; the child who wanted to matter. In my fiction, all my characters want to matter. They are all faced with choices to make. Those choices define their lives.

Thirty-six years ago on this day, I had no clue about the path my life was about to take. I had no way to know. I hardly knew the boy I married. I had few skills to grapple with what lay ahead, and little support. But I learned. And, as I learned, I got better at being a parent, a friend, a partner, a writer, a human being.

So. It's my anniversary of sorts. I've lived through a short, tumultuous marriage, a long, challenging one, and now, here comes a sweet, generous-hearted union. I created a new anniversary date this past July 30 when I married Jim. We first met in high school, in Charleston, South Carolina. Jim has never married. That was his choice. "I waited for you," he likes to say. He is off playing piano tonight -- holiday music -- for folks who are making merry this season.

Each choice is so precious. All choices lead home. Some routes are more circuitous than others. I am 54 years old. I am home. And I am glad.


  1. I'm going to link to your blog on my livejournal...it's just wonderful, Debbie. Thanks for continuing it...and for the whole pomegranate theme...it's perfect. It reminds me that I just read a great essay by Silas House, who said his greatest writing teacher, James Still, gave him this advice on writing: "Discover something new everyday." That was how to become a writer...


  2. Hi, Deb,
    I enjoyed reading your snippet today about your journey from 18-yr. old bride to new bride once again, and I appreciate the honesty. As you said, there *is* power in honest story-telling, and it often takes tons of courage to do.

    I loved your Buechner quote, and wondered which of his books/writings it came from????
    All best,
    Dianne White (VC grad 1/07)

  3. 'Love the pix. Great post. I'm glad you are continuing to tell stories beyond the book tour. I'll drop by often.

  4. You have so many similarities to my mother, both in story and response to it, though you are almost a complete generation behind her. I admire you in much the same way I do her. I am her Alisa, you know...


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