Love Curator

This week will be our 25th wedding anniversary. I cannot say it’s mine, that would give me too much credit. I can say it’s given me pause as 25 years is the longest I’ve stuck with any endeavor, and yes, marriage is an endeavor. I’ve enjoyed it all, botched huge chunks of it, put great effort (as has my spouse tenfold), and been very cautious with it.

Marriage feels like something sacred, not in a religious aspect, though our weeks at pre-cana course to prepare to be married in the church were like a toned-down reality tv show where couples discuss certain important things about marriage for the first time ever (like why you probably should tell your spouse about buying a ten thousand dollar motocyle before doing so), but rather like a priceless piece of art or a natural phenomena.

Like all precious things, marriage should be protected from who and how it’s observed. The well-meaning relatives with their advice can only speak to their own marriages; to compare your marriage to a friends or public icons is like taking your image seriously while walking through a funhouse; and, looking back to see whether you have achieved all you should have by now in your marriage is as much a recipe for disaster as contemplations taken on those woeful “big” birthdays. Guarding one’s marriage is a bit like being a curator, a caretaker of something wondrous and beautiful that only the two of you should interpret, and possibly redefine, over time.

But what is a curator’s job, and what does it have to do with marriage, or those two swans photographed in this post? Curator’s are subject matter experts of art, history, books, architecture (the things to help distract you, learn, satisfy your hobby). Curators decide what to bring into a collection (what will add value to you, the public, and the people with the wallets who help put it behind glass to keep it protected from you), what to trade off for a bit (keep things interesting for some other curator), what to say about it (those small cards next to the displays that make you put your thumb and forefinger to your chin), and where to put it (short attention span items on the ground floor, hobbyists take the stairs please).

So now that you don’t have to go to Wikipedia for information, what about marriage?

I became a subject matter expert, after lots of dating, on what I needed: someone who would make sure I had a sweater when I was cold, was seated more advantageously when we went to shows, bravely told me when I was doing silly things (like procrastinating my thesis), and pushed me to do the things that terrified me (turns out writing a book is more scary than rock climbing). I found I also needed someone I would worry about, and want to be happy even I could;t always be.  We both agreed the physical location mattered not so long as we were by each others’ sides.

Curators and spouses must take note of all these little intimacies of their object of affection. This may seem trivial until you are feeling shaky about life. Then, he reminds you of what you have done so far, what you are capable of, and that you won’t do it alone and everything suddenly feels more solid and sure. All because you stood up to some bully on the playground in the fourth grade.

A curator also knows her subject’s faults, why they enhance the piece, not detract. She knows how the piece will behave and be viewed in different circumstances, and always tries to place the subject in its best environment. So my husband reminds me that I may want to volunteer away all my free time for causes in which I care and micromanage my family’s dramas; but, I need to focus on my writing, long walks, or sitting alone to watch my favorite Australian TV drama (“A Place to Call Home”) . I remind him that while he earns the money to help keep a lovely roof over our heads, he too must do the things he loves. When he doesn’t, I point out his cracks are wearing thin, he needs to be patched up. Then he goes out into nature, with a camera whose long lens attracts passersby with forest-ranger type questions, and he captures his photos. When he returns home,  I recognize the piece again in all its splendor.

You can’t keep anything under glass forever, and you cannot hide away from the rest of the world the person who has made you appreciate human kind. You have to share them so their special quality, which maybe only you see in them at first, can become visible. By being left alone to change, things grow into their full potential. Even the unattractive cygnet duckling in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale goes from homely to handsome once he develops into a graceful muted swan (I promised to tie in the photo, didn’t I?!).

In our marriage, we encourage one another to venture, to grow, to try and maybe fail because you cannot ever ruin a truly great object. As curators of each other, we make time to repair the other, tend to the marriage when the edges are looking worn. We also know though to not take too many chances or risk too much because as curators, experts, we may know how to put the piece back together, but we love the work too much to have to test that we could.

Photo © Julian Tudorache

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