Happily Ever After

From September 1997

Ten years ago, I brought a simple band of gold into the jeweler's shop and asked him to engrave it for me.

"I want it to say, 'Once upon a time and happily ever after' and the date '9-12-87.'"

The jeweler cocked one eyebrow and said, "It's just one ring; you can't write a novel on it."

"It's not a novel. It's just the beginning and the end. Can't you print really small?"

"No way. You'll have to come up with something else."

Before we even got to the altar, the reality was that this was a marriage and not a fairy tale. My perception at the time was that "happily ever after" meant that we'd never be unhappy. I took the jeweler's refusal a bit personally. It's a good thing I wasn't superstitious. Ten years and four children later, I've discovered what "happily ever after" really means.

My white knight, it turns out, doesn't ride a white horse. He drives a 1988 black Taurus sedan. It is the "family car" that we bought when we discovered, somewhat unexpectedly, that we were going to have a baby for our first anniversary. It is the car that he tried to convince me not to take to the hospital for that birth. He was afraid I'd get it messy. That car made midnight trips to the hospital a few more times, for a life-threatening infection as a result of chemotherapy, for another birth, and for the first of many childhood asthma attacks. It also has been the chariot to countless Sunday Masses, Saturday soccer games and midnight trips to the grocery store. Now it groans along, needing frequent transfusions of vital fluids in order to reach very local destinations. No white horse, just a trusty old black car.

My white knight, it turns out, doesn't live in a castle. He lives in a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. He works very long hours to pay for the house. There are so many riding toys, basketballs and bikes in the garage that he has never parked his chariot there. There is a swingset in the backyard that he designed and built for his children. Inside, there is happy confusions. Upstairs, there are beds in every room, but the knight often finds himself having a "sleepover" on the floor of the the family room with the young squires. No castle, just a home.

My white knight, it turns out, gets cranky when he's hungry (he reminds us of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk). And sometimes he gets angry. This was not something I counted on when I went to have the ring engraved. I think I thought that as long as we were in love, there would be no anger, no arguments.

Around the time of our wedding, Carly Simon had a new song entitled "The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of." The tune was catchy and though I cannot even find the album (an antiquated term in these days of CDs), my children have often heard me sing the few phrases that have stayed in my mind over the years. [editor's note: isn't the 21st century grand? I found a YouTube link in 2 seconds flat:-)] I sing this tune when I wipe runny noses and clean dirty diapers, when pots boil over just as the white knight calls to say he'll be late to dinner. I sing it when I'm frustrated because I can't get the real to meet the ideal.

What if the prince on the horse in your fairytale

Is right here in disguise?

And what if the stars you've been reaching so high for

Are shining in his eyes?...

It's the stuff that dreams are made of

It's the slow and steady fire

It's the stuff that dreams are made

It's your heart and soul's desire

I never thought I'd have to reminded that my life is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of.

But I do. Reality is not as sugar-coated as the fairy tales. However the pain in our lives has borne such sweet fruit. The bitterest of arguments have yielded the greatest understanding, the tenderest reconciliation.  Real life is not a fairy tale. There is no fairy godmother; nothing is tied up in a beautiful bow.

Instead, married life is a journey undertaken by two souls. Our destination is heaven. That is our happily ever after. There is always joy, even in the darkest moments, because there is always God. Our marriage is a covenant between Mike, me, and God: a commitment. For better or worse. The joy, the genuine happiness, is in the commitment--God's commitment to us; ours to him; and ours to each other.

What I could not know as a young bride-to-be is that in a covenant marriage, the flushed, giddy, once-upon-a-time romance grows into a deep, abiding, mature love. A love that endures. A love upon which God pours out His riches graces.

On second thought, maybe I did know, deep down inside. I had my husband's ring engraved "Once upon a time and forever" and slipped it on his finger on a beautiful morning ten years ago "as a token of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

The other day, I happened upon an overstuffed envelope filled with old columns. Most of them pre-date my time on the internet. I enjoyed some quiet time, re-acquainting myself with the young wife and mother who wrote those columns. And since I'm in need of a bit of a blogging break, I'm going to share her with you in the next few weeks. I hope you are blessed.

I am happy this week to share this post with my dear friend Ann Voskamp, as part of her June devotion to the Spiritual Practice of Matrimony

holy experience