Thus the Wyman Family Culture was slated to drift into its next phase, dispersion, in 2000. Jonathan was a Junior at Asbury and was still dating his highschool sweetheart who had followed him there, part of one-quarter of the Concord Christian class of '98 who went from NH to Asbury. Ben was plodding along happily in his own self-contained way, doing well at school, playing JV basketball, surfacing into conversation with others often enough to be interesting. As one of the older boys put it, we were that reading, eccentric, high-volunteering family that won all the puzzles and contests. Tracy and I looked forward to some variation of "Mama in her kerchief, and I In my cap, were looking forward to a long winter's nap that involved lots of reading, and perhaps travel." The end of an era approached, and it was a satisfying and comforting feeling to watch our two about to be well-launched.
My mother was dying, which took a great deal of travel up to Wolfeboro, twice a month, then once a week, then twice a week and three. Terribly sad, but that also fit with the ending of the era. My father would live on for a few more years, and I am like him in many ways, but my part of the family culture derives strongly from my mother and her side of the family, specifically her mother's side, where everyone played word games and knew poetry and talked with animation. When my mother died in October, I knew I would see little of my stepfather after (though I never expected he would forbid contact entirely).
I had visiting Romania in 1998, and after hearing Dale Kuehne mention that he had encouraged Rachel to go because he didn't want Romania to be the Other Woman in his life, I convinced Tracy to go in 1999. Perhaps this would be our new direction, one or both of us going to Romania every year. It seemed a place where we could carve out some ministry niche. But the cards fell differently and we adopted two teenagers from the orphanage instead, bringing Romania to America instead of the other way around.
The cultural divide was sharp. Jonathan graduated the week before they arrived, and Ben was finishing his junior year and looking on to college himself. Yet it never became two families. That was part of our energy and intent, to make sure that Chris and JA integrated into a family they would still have after we died, but I think Jonathan and Ben would have naturally done that anyway, or so it seems in retrospect. We were now the raucous House of Boys, with people noisily slamming in and out all the time, with more argument and less deep reflective conversation and clever irony. Irony is a weak teacher across foreign language and culture. Now we were all part Romanian. A new student at Concord Christian couldn't figure out why towheaded Ben had no accent and didn't speak Romanian like his brothers. (I think he never did get it. A full sandwich short of a picnic, that boy.) We had soccer players who knew what they were doing, but had no interest in baseball, basketball, or football. One of them does now.
Yet the continuity was also enormous - likely because that too was a specific, intentional part of our raising them. We have all become each other to some extent, which is how it should be. That makes no sense on the surface, but I think it is the grand expansion of goodness. We are each, all seven, very distinct from each other, yet there is similarity. Goodness can grow and expand, it does not have to harbor strength.
Next up, I will comment on acquiring sons at junior high age and how one raises them, which in turn sheds light on how one raises them from birth.