So quick, off the top of your head: Name five famous love stories that involve a long and happy marriage.
Hard to do, isn’t it?
This came to mind yesterday as I drove home from school, where I am teaching Romeo and Juliet to my kids. I mused about the fact that so many of our great love stories, in literature, theater and film, involve tragic romances, or romances that start off with a bang and then die out, as if they can’t sustain themselves over the long haul. This is probably not too surprising, as it’s undeniably more exciting to watch two people in the wild throes of their first infatuation than it is to watch a married couple cleaning out the garage. Even stories that do end with wedded bliss — like Pride and Prejudice, or many of Shakespeare’s comedies — don’t show us what those marriages look like, ten years and two kids and fifteen pounds later. We don’t get to see that love evolve over time.
And hey: that’s a shame. Because though there is something beautiful about the intoxicating heady wine of new love, there is also something beautiful about a relationship that has mellowed and gotten a little more subtle over the years. And there is something inherently moving about two people navigating the big ocean of life together, choosing to stay on the same little old surfboard no matter what kind of waves come their way. That gives us all hope, I think.
You know why else I’m pondering love and marriage? Today is the 50th wedding anniversary of my in-laws. (Yes, 50!!!) I’ve only known them for about a fifth of that time, but believe me, I could not have kinder, more wonderful in-laws. It’s a privilege to be a part of the family that they created. (Oh, and they raised a pretty great son, too.)
Last night, when we told Matthew that Grandpa Bob and Grandma Joan would celebrate their anniversary today, he proceeded to count to fifty. We’ve never heard him count that far before. He went along well, with just the merest bit of help, and finally got to the forties. “Forty-seven … forty-eight … forty-nine …….forty-ten,” he said.
Forty-ten: I love it. And I think Shakespeare himself would agree that a fifty-year anniversary by any other name would smell as sweet.
Happy Anniversary, Bob and Joan! Thank you for showing us all how it’s done.
Painting: Romeo and Juliet by Frank Dicksee