When I was young I wanted so badly to be considered a grown up. I would dress and talk like an adult, thinking I was fooling everybody else not just myself. I remember being fifteen, already wearing 4-inch heels, certain that my destiny involved early marriage and a house full of kids. I met boys, had crushes, and once or twice even deemed myself madly in love. I believed the fairy tales, the happily ever after.
The spring of my first year at the university, a boy I had just broken up with committed suicide. For a long time I thought it had been my fault, after all he had promised to, would I ever break it off. I laughed his words off, of course, because what did I know? I was just a kid pretending to be an adult. But a few weeks later a mutual friend met me for lunch and told me that he had in fact drowned himself.
And then, not much later, I met a boy who was so jealous that he punched me in the nose and gave me the only bloody nose of my life. I remember sitting there in shock. Up until that point I believed that although harm could come to those around me, it would never touch my being. I was special. I was a princess. Was I ever wrong!
Being a grown up was not as swell as I’d imagined. I got serious about my education and pushed the thought of marriage away. I had no need for boys and their tantrums. I became such a mean cynic. I found fault with everyone and everything. I walked around telling all who would listen that the beast would always remain a beast and the frog would forevermore croak and the princess was nothing more than an impostor. Stories lied and parents lied.
And then I met my husband and questioned my new philosophy on love and life. But didn’t quite give it up. Because I learned some truths along the way. Depressing stuff like how sad and trite life is. Only being aware of that, could I appreciate the beauty and the miracle of it. I suppose that is why I cringe when I see young girls rush into marriage. Into the destiny they are so adamant is theirs. I want to tell them to take a deep breath and see if they are ready to accept the struggles and the heartaches. Those are guaranteed. It is the joy and the remaining love that are unexpected.
As teens, my sisters and I would roll our eyes whenever my dad or mom would bring forth the subject of their courtship. It seemed such an old fashioned concept, and we were more than slightly embarrassed by it. Normal people’s parents had dated, not courted. According to my dad, mom had quite a few suitors and she couldn’t make up her mind between them. One night she’d meet one of them for a walk down the linden city center streets, stopping somewhere for a beverage or dessert, and the next together with her girlfriends she’d run into another at an ice cream parlor.
Apparently these meetings carried on for a while, and dad was losing patience. Christmas was approaching, and he was playing the trombone in a brass band that visited the surrounding village churches. He would be gone for a while every Saturday and Sunday and those were their designated days to walk the promenade, coyly flirting, my mom in her tailored miniskirt and kitten heels and dad in his well cut suit. On a cold November Sunday he demanded that she choose between them. Who would it be?
I can just imagine my mom looking up at him surprised. What was his hurry, she had probably murmured in her soft voice. My mom is very soft spoken. She couldn’t be rushed, she had most likely added. She was just twenty-one. And so my dad did what every honorable man of his time did. He paid a visit to my grandparents, laden with gifts, and asked for my mom’s hand in marriage.
The only problem was that another of her suitors had beat him to it, and while she hadn’t been promised (as the decision was solely my mom’s), my grandparents were faced with an issue they hadn’t foreseen. Although she does not admit it, claiming she does not remember, I believe mom may have had an inkling of it. What to do? She liked both of them, for different reasons. They were both good men, from good families. She couldn’t make up her mind. Grandmother and grandfather prayed that God would lead her to choose the kindest of the two.
Mom finally decided that she would pick the one she would first encounter, unplanned. She got herself ready, her long dark tresses in a topknot popular in those days and went to meet a girlfriend. And whom should she meet on the way there? My dad, of course. Was it planned, a coincidence perhaps, or was it really a sign from God? No one’s telling. And my grandmother had a saying she loved to repeat over and over whenever I pressed her about it: God speaks clearly and he doesn’t play magic tricks.
A month later my parents were married, and almost two years after that I came along, the first of five children. Now, as they are preparing to celebrate another anniversary together, I am praying for their long, happy marriage to continue, in good health and love, side by side.