Something Something Ever After — Personal
When I was a little girl I would sometimes spend the night with my grandparents in their house on Bennett Lake. They were old and their house was filled with strange treasures that fascinated me with every visit. There was of course the large box of toys designated for the grandchildren that sat out in the sunroom behind the front door. In this box was the Weebles Treehouse, a deck of Old Maid cards, a velcro catchers mitt & ball, a wiffle bat, and a slide tile puzzle of a family in their bathing suits. But the real treasures that inspired my imagination were not children's toys.
My grandmother, in retrospect, collected the most atrocious looking knick knacks. I have a suspicion that this is where my love of ugly things was born. Some of my favorites included a gray ceramic poodle with a rhinestone collar, a vibrantly colored ceramic totem pole with strange faces, a magnetic frog that was made out of pipe cleaners, felt and sequins, a functioning cuckoo clock that would sound on the hour, every hour - forever, my grandmother's bingo box full of her good luck charms, a charcoal painting of my parents when they were young and unburdened with children, and a strange looking clock that sat next to my bed in the guest bedroom. It would tick so loudly that I soon became accustomed to being lulled to sleep with a ticktickticktickticktick.
The guest bedroom was large. There were two twin beds with a nightstand in between, a large bureau with a mirror, and two chairs. My sister and I would sleep in this room together, she in one bed and me in the other, and we would lay there before going to sleep and read books from a large stack of vintage children's books. I always chose the bed on the left. It was closest to the door and to the nightlight, and on the wall next to the bed above the nightlight was my favorite treasure of all - a painting.
The painting told the story of a man and woman in pre-20th century. They were in love and would meet in secret on the ruins of a great castle by the sea. He was a gentleman and courted her properly, she was young and kind and the simple sight of him would make her heart race. They only had eyes for each other, theirs was a true love that would last forever. In this world the air smelled of misty salt water, flowers and lush pine. There were song birds that echoed through even the darkest shadows and the butterflies never ceased their colorful flight. The clouds there were so white and full that when they passed overhead, if one were to look up, they would see large cloud castles floating on a billowy white sea. It was always warm in this world and everyone was enchanting and beautiful.
The nightlight would cast a soft yellow glow upward and in the dark it illuminated this painting. I would lay there listening to the ticking of the clock, hearing the occasional muffled cuckoo from downstairs and stare at this painting, playing out scenes and building the world within it. I would fall asleep and dream of fairy tales where there were knights of armor, quaint villages, sparkling streams and blue skies.
This painting shaped my perception of love and romance. It influenced what my ideal world would be like, and it sparked the earliest forms of creativity within me. This painting was magical and I loved it deeply.
I was teenager when my grandmother died and shortly after her death I had a falling out with my grandfather. I left his house one day and didn't go back. In the years that passed I would fondly remember that painting and the world I had created around it. I would wonder how my aging memories of it compared to the real thing, wondered if it was still magical, still alive within itself.
When I went back home for my grandfather's passing I stepped foot inside his house for the first time in fifteen years. It was like time travel, I felt like a child again. Helping my mother clean out the house I rediscovered all of my lost treasures - the totem pole, the frog, the clocks, the poodle. But that painting wasn't hanging on the wall. I asked my mother about it and she said that my grandfather had a garage sale a few years ago and that many of the things I remembered (like an awesome rooster lamp) were probably sold at that time. The idea was too sad to accept and so I set to work in the dreaded "junk room", a room literally filled high with the most random crap you've ever seen. You could barely step inside this room, let alone go through it, but I was determined and so I dug in. After a few hours of pulling out boxes of old photographs, paper bags filled with holiday decorations, broken vacuum cleaners and fans and old pieces of small furniture, I found the painting resting against the far back wall behind a stack of old towels.
From the moment I set my eyes on it those dimly lit nights that I spent as a child laying in bed and listening to clocks as I peered into that magical world, came rushing back. I realized in that moment that this painting had begun my intense desire for a "happily ever after". Growing up I had this absolute belief that somewhere out there I had A Prince. Someone who was meant for me alone, and I for him. And I knew, I knew in the deepest parts of me that I would know him when I saw him. There would be no question, no hesitation. And that we would live our happily ever after.
If ever I have had a faith about anything, that was it.
When I started dating boys I fell in love a few times but I knew that they were only temporary. I understood that this boy or that boy wasn't The One and sometimes, even in these relationships, I felt so lonely for the man I hadn't met yet.
And then one night in 1999 while vacationing in NYC I saw a tall, thin man standing on stage in a dive bar tuning a guitar. I knew right away, at first glance, and I was drawn to him in a way that I'd never been drawn to anyone. I turned to my girlfriend and said, "I have to have him". My prince had come.
And today, nearly 30 years away from that little girl with starry eyes and magical thoughts, a grown woman with starry eyes and magical thoughts is living her happily every after and staring at that very same painting as she lay in bed at night.
The bedroom you describe sounds almost identical the the one at my Nana's house. When it's time, I'm curious of what I remember fondly will end up in my house.
Oh, and happy anniversary!
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