Remember Hilary Rodham Clinton’s “it takes a village to raise a child “ comment that subsequently turned into a best-selling book highlighting the First Lady’s ‘vision’ for America’s children? I do.
My own children were 10 and under in 1996. I was teaching for the first time since I’d sworn off education a decade earlier. As any mother of youngsters will confirm, it’s hard work raising a family. Even harder with additional work responsibilities serving as a sometimes sour cherry atop the ‘American Dream’ Sundae. So I took immediate and long-lasting umbrage at Clinton’s village cooperation proclamation, and then applauded Bob Dole’s rebuttal: “with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.” Family. Not village. That was (and is) my stance. Heck. Even a recent Facebook status announces that we’re a Pro Nuclear Family family. But Matt & Victoria’s wedding opened my eyes to a village concept I’ve been ignoring for years.
We have three children. Not a huge family by any standard, really. Our quiver, while delightfully occupied, could never have been labeled ‘full.’ These days, my own voice would echo endlessly if I called ‘halloooo’ into the gaping archer’s case that once housed our boys. They seem to ‘think it meet’ (Shakespeare, you know) to go out into the world and attempt to conquer it. (Obviously, they are in their still idealistic twenties) We can’t populate our own two-story house, much less fill an entire ‘village.’ Yet, as we witnessed our handsome young man taking a stunning young woman to be his wife, I looked ‘round at the guests and suddenly, a revelation. (to be honest, the revelation didn’t come until after the wedding was several days past, but story telling permits creative license… Right?)
When wedding planning began in earnest both families realized that detail management can be a bit sticky from hundreds of miles away – especially the guest list. It really only takes five people to pull off a wedding. Or is it just four? Let’s see. A bride. A groom. An officiant. And a witness. Or two. Thankfully, our groom and bride wanted to include a few more. Dozens more. Aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends and bridesmaids and groomsmen – even flower girls and a dashing little ring bearer. The wedding reception included poignant toasts, caution-thrown-to-the-winds dancing (oops!) and love outpoured from family and friends, celebrating Matt & Victoria’s union. It might only take a very few to perform a wedding, but the nuptials are far sweeter with loved ones amassed. And amass we certainly did.
Our journey to Panama City, FL typifies the messy, ‘who-but-our-family?’ sort of way that we’ve done nearly everything in raising up our boys. By Grace, Matt and Luke met Michael when they started third grade. Michael’s family and ours became fast friends before that school year was out, and ‘the rest, as they say, is history.’ (the occasional cliché still works, after all.) For the past seventeen years our families have shared nearly everything – vacations, political observations, church, all the holidays, both major and not-so-major, Superbowls, the Big 10, birthdays and ‘the cake,’ countless meals, firepits, educational philosophy, health problems, societal concerns, a love of dogs, griefs, sports enthusiasm, dreams and worries, tears and laughter. We’ve raised each others’ children, shared each others’ burdens, planned together our joint futures and gazed, slightly awe-struck, as our children have matured and ventured out on their own. In such fashion, then, we orchestrated the trip to Matt & Victoria’s wedding. Nine separate travel arrangements for our combined travelers. And that was just the groom’s most immediate ‘family.’ No one blinked an eye. Everyone simply planned to be there. It’s what we do. We have been blessed beyond measure, and most days, we know it. A wedding day crystalized this truth for all of us.
Parents raise up their children to ‘leave their father and mother’ and, please God, find meaningful work, marriage, lasting relationships, children, friends, and dreams come true. “The two become one flesh,” and then spend their joined lives together, building a family. Witness any wedding reception, and you’ll find the gathered guests (family & friends) surrounding the newly wed couple, promising encouragement, accountability, help in times of trouble, and shared joy along the way. It will remind you, I hope, as it did me, of all the years prior to that special wedding day. Years spent raising children.
As it turns out, it looks a good bit, and has always felt, much to my very recent surprise, like a ‘village.’