Fractured Fairy Tales
Photo used with Creative Commons License from http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevensnodgrass/6496538781
I got pregnant at the age of 23.
I graduated from college at the age of 25.
I bought a house at the age of 26
I got a dog at the age of 30.
I got married at the age of 32.
I used to joke that my life was a fractured fairy tale. All the fragments were there but they had been disjointed and fell out of place. No matter the order, or how long some of them took, I’ve always been determined to get to my happy ever after. Now that I’ve placed the checkmarks in the boxes I am starting to realize that the uncharacteristic nature of my timeline isn’t the only thing altering my story.
Tonight I listened to my daughters, 6 and 8, describe their crushes at school. Both of them oozing young grossness. They teased each other about some day having a boyfriend, getting married, and even K-I-S-S-I-N-G. I thought about their fairy tales. What they are envisioning, what they are excited for, and ultimately how most of it won’t even matter.
We build up these tales for years, only to have them crash down the second something doesn’t go as planned. The absolute horridness of first kisses should be evidence enough of that. I wondered what fairy tale I would tell my children about my own life, what stories defined my ever after.
I think I would tell them about the time I was 22 and I dumped a pitcher of water on a guy’s head. I know it isn’t glamorous, and it probably encourages all kinds of inappropriate behavior, but I would assure them that this time it was worth it. This time, when a complete stranger commented on the size of my love handles when I was out having a good time with my friends, this time when his words reverberated through years of body image issues and unhealthy habits, this time when he spoke about my body as if it were his own to comment on without second guessing his assumption for even a second, this time he deserved water being poured on his head.
I think I would tell them about the time I was 27 and I grew tomatoes for the first time. How I had never even kept a house plant alive before but I willed myself to tend to plants every day until they produced dark crimson signs of success. How I dug in the earth, stained my hands with the soil, and refused to be dismayed when I couldn’t drive the cages straight down into the hardened ground. I did what I could. I let the cages slant and the tomatoes grew at an angle, every bit as beautiful and every bit as much mine.
I think I would tell them about the time I was 25 and I learned to say no for the first time. Not “no thank you” not “maybe some other time” and not even “I’ll think about it.” No. No I don’t want to go out with you. No I don’t want to help with that project. No I don’t agree with the way you are acting. No. I would make sure they know that I have continued using the word today, years of smothered nos to make up for.
I think I would tell them about the time I was almost a teenager and my hamster died. I was too old to be upset about some dumb hamster. The latest in a string of rodent housemates. I was too cool to be bothered by the passing of my miniature friend who I had held in my hand for years, peering into his eyes and wondering if he was happy with his life. I was too much of too many things, yet there I was crying, stroking his soft fur, whispering apologies and lyrics to send him into his new adventure.
I think I would tell them about those times, and how they have made up the pieces of my story every bit as much as the boyfriends, marriage, and K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Probably even more.
I think I would tell them that when it comes to fairy tales, the happily ever after doesn’t come from the situations in the stories. It comes from figuring out what the lesson was all along.