The Happily Ever After Marriage handbook is filled with fine print. With a healthy dose of humor a marriage will survive lots of hills and valleys, and a few frogs.
I’m in the backseat of a beat up Dodge Dart, sipping Boone’s Farm Apple Wine and listening to a guy describe how he’d shoved firecrackers in a frog’s mouth then blew it up, for kicks. What might strike any sane eighteen year old girl as the opportune moment to run for the hills, I instead, agreed to marry the guy.
Why? It’s a reasonable question.
Naivety was my greatest asset. The finer things life might offer down the road, like the fickle nuances of a fine Pinot Noir or an automobile with two working headlights was beyond my vision. Still I had no business discussing marriage with a guy who only ordered meals served in combo with a large side of French fries.
What did I know? I was in love. That fairy tale notion of happily ever after marriage definitely clouded my future plans for a creative and independent life. The moment I’d said yes I was screwed and it would be years before I became unscrewed. I wanted to be married and move out of my parent’s house and he was the first guy who made an offer. How could I refuse?
My grandmother accepted a marriage proposal at sixteen, apparently just under the ‘Old Maid’ deadline although she gave me a bit of latitude. “Marry by eighteen,” she said, “but after twenty you can only be a librarian.”
On the other hand my mother screamed from the rooftops for me to run away as fast and far as possible. “You’ll get stuck here cooking, scrubbing and washing dirty diapers.” She said this while polishing the silver frame around her wedding photo and stuffing an 18 pound turkey.
For less than a case of Schlitz, our other quality beverage choice, we eloped and enjoyed a reception for two at Burger King because the parking lot at Wendy’s was full. We skipped a big wedding, built a house and in a year, welcomed a baby. Every decision seemed to be a roll of the dice, a crap shoot.
We won some battles, we lost some.
Too much focus had been placed on the pretty pictures – castle on the hill, handsome prince, white horse. I glossed over the fine print in the Happily Ever After Marriage handbook. “The End” is written only after surviving years of hard work and sacrifice. Delaying one’s dreams (I thought) was for suckers with weak spirits. Certainly not me. Or very poor strategists. Oh, that’s me.
Had I negotiated before removing my shirt in the back of the Dodge, or listened to the wiser older women, I would be a tenured Old Maid librarian living in another country. And happy? I’ll never know.
But twenty years of bloodshed and rock throwing might have been avoided had one of us lived in the forest while the other dug a deep moat around the mortgaged castle. We’d both given up our hopes, wishes and desires for this happily ever after thing. But nobody seemed happy. I was cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and working, not as a librarian. He was cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and working overtime, also not as a librarian.
Years blurred together. Our journey felt like one long trudge up the hills, down the hills and through the valleys. We carted bags and boxes and containers of crap that only weighted us down and yielded no real value.
And then after many years we turned to the light-hearted chapters of the book and a funny thing happened. The land leveled off. The kids grew up and moved out. We decluttered our space. The world stopped spinning fast and we realized the quest for this perfect life was under our feet all along. A few weeds in the lawn only meant the soil was healthy enough to grow things. We became as happy and optimistic as those two teenagers in the back of the Dodge talking nonsense.
Today we eat al fresco when possible, our meals simple, and due to high cholesterol, French fries-less. Bullfrogs croak in the pond out back and blowing them up doesn’t enter the conversation. We share a bottle of mid-priced Pinot Noir and play rock, paper, scissors to decide who will take out the trash or pick up the dog poop.
That’s love in the Happily Ever After Marriage sequel. I’m a lucky gal. It seems naivety turned out to be my greatest asset after all.