The Kiddy Pool: Remembering ‘The Office’… and Our Vows

Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

After a long hiatus, I tuned in for Thursday’s series finale of The Office, having been persuaded by Amy Lepine Peterson’s thoughtful commentary. I started to work backward too, and found myself particularly moved by the “Paper Airplanes” episode scene where Jim embraces Pam and she resists — at first. She’s frustrated that he’s putting work first again, and he’s headed to Philadelphia while she’s heading home to put the kids to bed alone (again). The scene is painfully long, with Pam physically and emotionally removed from the hug until she starts to recall hearing the verses from 1 Corinthians 13 about love. I’ve never really liked that verse at weddings. I think I’ve seen it used thoughtlessly so many times that it feels like a cliché, but that scene didn’t feel formulaic. It felt beautiful.

It was kind of perfect timing for my husband and I to watch the series finale of The Office together. The show ran for 9 seasons; we started dating 9 years ago. Pam and I were pregnant at the same time twice. Jim reflects at one point that the documentary aspect of the show allowed him to watch himself grow up, and in many ways, I feel like the same thing has happened for my husband and I in that time. Over the last 9 years, I’ve lost both of my grandmothers, another family member who was essentially a third grandmother, and two uncles. We’ve moved 4 times, and into our own home at last. We’ve added 2 beautiful daughters to our 2 reasonably cute cats. We’ve felt the loneliness of a move away from our entire community of friends, the trepidation of making new friends, the joy and anxiety of bringing children into the world, and all the everyday pleasures and stresses of work and family life.

Our 6th wedding anniversary is approaching, and we recently took out the scrapbook I made long ago. It contains photos of friends we haven’t seen in a long time and family members who are gone. It almost seems to contain holes now, too — empty spaces I didn’t know were empty then, for new friends and for our children. We have this habit of rereading our vows to each other on occasion; they are tucked in the scrapbook along with the program and all the happy pictures. We read them to each other, solemnly, reiterating the promises we made to each other on that occasion of tremendous hope and joy. It’s a good reminder that I promised before God and our loved ones to cherish and pray for my husband. And it’s a good reminder to me that he promised that too — that even when I feel like I don’t deserve it, he cherishes me still. It’s so telling that on a day of happiness and feasting, we bind ourselves to one another through sickness and poverty as well; we make promises while hope is strong to sustain us through times when it wanes.

But that scene with Pam and Jim reminded me of something more, too, of something that holds my marriage together in spite of my shortcomings. A Godly marriage is like a cord of 3 strands — not easily broken because God holds us together. My husband and I have been through a lot — good times and hard times — in our 9 years. Only God knows what our future together holds. We were lucky enough to marry on my grandparents’ 61st anniversary, and I can only hope that we get to see that anniversary for ourselves. If we do, it will be because we, like Pam and Jim, recognize that the love holding us together — the love that never fails — is a gift from God.

About Erin Wyble Newcomb

Erin Wyble Newcomb earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Women's Studies from Penn State University. In addition to parenting her daughters, running marathons, and making things with glitter, she teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinWyble or at http://phdmama.com/.

  • Jakeithus

    My wife bugs me because I got teary eyed at the scene you are discussing. It was a really touching moment, and as someone who has been a huge Office fan for it’s entire run, it made me especially emotional. I too am not a huge fan of 1st Corinthians in use at weddings, because it is easy and cliche to talk about love never failing on your wedding day. The verse’s power comes when things are tough, and it took a fictional relationship to help me see that.


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