In August, we bring a set of new full-time writers to the blog. Covering the 7th of each month, please welcome Susannah Boersma (’20). Susannah studied secondary English education at Calvin. She lives in Grand Rapids and works at Carson City-Crystal High School as an English teacher.
Summers are weddings. Weddings ooze from between the layers of sandy feet and popsicle hands that make up summer. As a five-year-old, summers weren’t measured by soccer camps or trips Up North, but by how many times we crammed all six family members and every edition of I Spy into our van, trundling off to Michigan for another cousin’s wedding.
I’ve seen every cliché wedding event in the books. Throw the bouquet. Exit the reception accompanied by glow sticks, bubble wands, or sparklers. I was cynical about the “Raise the Shoe” game before I even got braces.
This summer I was in a meadow with a pack of campers from the day camp I worked at. As they twisted flowers together with their clumsy fingers into flower crowns, they declared that it was time to have a wedding. My heart wilted at the thought. I don’t want to be the kind of camp counselor who is raising a new generation of middle schoolers who have 786 pins on their wedding board on Pinterest. I’ll be the first to admit that weddings are beautiful. At their best they serve as an emblem of a commitment of servant love between two people and two families. Yet they often manifest instead as a more surface level display of girls obsessing over creating a perfectly incubated polaroid to hang on their wall. It’s a longing for a future that is always more beautiful than the messy presence of childhood they are currently stuck in.
In the meadow, I begrudgingly accepted the role of “Gram Gram” that was allotted to me, perching my glasses at the very edge of my nose and watching as my supposed granddaughter walked down the aisle. When she reached the end, the “pope,” who was naturally officiating, flipped a long braided pigtail over her shoulder and launched into a carefully scripted monologue ripped straight from every rom-com I’ve ever seen.
Then she asked, “Are there any objections to this marriage?”
Every single hand flew into the air, the pope shrugged, and the wedding dissolved into a pack of ten-year-olds chasing each other around in the grassy field and pelting one another with scraps of flowers. My heart flowed with this image of crystalized childhood that drags me back to camp every summer.
Every time I hear the last verse of Puff the Magic Dragon I nearly cry:
A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant’s rings make way for other toys.
The concept of childhood ending is unbearable to me. I want little boys to live forever with their imaginary dragon friends. I want Peter to stay in Neverland with the Lost Boys. I have given four summers as a camp counselor, and it feels like this may be the one I am dreading where Aslan takes me down to the beach and tells me that I can’t come back to Narnia anymore. I am too old for pinecone people and cheers about bluegills and I have to go back to boarding school.
I watched my campers dancing around in the joy brought by the abandonment of wedding responsibility for the joy of flower fights. Because the promise of love in weddings hints at heaven, but for me the joy fostered best by children shines even brighter with the light of eternity.
I don’t want to leave Narnia for good because I still have so much to learn from kids who can shatter the control sought in a perfectly planned wedding. Maybe I should have the pope officiate my wedding too.
Susannah Boersma graduated from Calvin University in May of 2020. She studied secondary English education. She lives in Grand Rapids and works at Carson City-Crystal High School as an English teacher.