They lived happily ever after. With those words ended the earliest stories of love and happiness I remember hearing or reading. There was never a sequel. With that one sentence, characters and places I fell in love with simply ceased to be. Stricken from existence was a life I immersed myself in as though those few words were all the closure I needed.
Alex and I were married on a beautifully sunny July day when I was seventeen and eight months pregnant. After being best friends and mortal enemies alternatively for four years, we walked off into the sunset to live happily ever after...
I am so glad we have not been struck with "happily ever after"- itis. Since that summer day almost fourteen years ago, we have been riding the rollar-coaster of life full tilt. There have been no ball gowns, glass slippers, or carriages. Although we did have a lovely sun coloured palace for a little while. We have laughed and fought, cried and made-up. We have mourned together and differently. We have celebrated and refused to celebrate. We have come to a deep sense of understanding and knowing, and we have come to the realization that we will never "get" each other completely. We're OK with that. Sometimes we are passionate and overwhelmed with awe for each other and other times we just are. Nothing special or shiny, we just co-exist.
There have been days, especially recently, when I have felt a little guilty. I have worried that we don't give our kids enough, or that we have put our sense of adventure and social responsibility ahead of their happiness and security. The last few weeks have been a particularly gruelling inner battle, right until we went to Cranbrook for a visit.
While we were there, pretty much everyone had a good cry at one point or another. My heart broke to remember in full colour what we left. Not just my sunshiny house, but the people, the family, the community, and mostly, the people who so completely love my kids. Then, as they usually do, my kids taught me a few lessons. I will tell you my favourite, funny one.
Shiloh and I ran into our friend Jody and her son Alec who is one of Shiloh's best pals. We sat and chatted for a few minutes and I eavesdropped a bit on the kids while Jody and I spoke. I was blown away by Shiloh's enthusiasm about our new life here in Kelowna and wanting to share it with her friend. Suddenly she turned to Jody and said, very emphatically, "Auntie Jody, when are you coming for visit? You should come soon! You can stay in our sketchy fourplex!" She said, "sketchy fourplex" with the tone most children would use for Disneyland. She has no concept that her invitation could be a deterrent rather than enticing. I wasn't going to correct her because, once again, it is my head that needs alterations.
I don't need "happily ever after" and I am no longer buying into the idea that my children do either. We need adventure, challenge and heartache to be mixed in with our joy. We need battles to fight and gardens to plant. We need to get dirty and tired and sad. We need to sing and to be silenced. We need to laugh until we cry and cry until we laugh. We need for life not to be fair and for joy to be costly. We need to keep learning to be content when we have everything and nothing.
Happily ever after means the story is over. I am not ready to be finished. I want to keep turning these pages until I run completely out of of breath.