Twenty-five years had passed since we had begun our separate journeys. A lot of road had been traveled, not all of it smooth. Other joys. Other loves. Other heart breaks. We stood on separate altars and pledged our vows with love, deep conviction and a fairy tale like vision of the life ahead. Careers, children, homes followed. But everyone who begins this journey brings to it a past, an emotional mirror whose web like cracks can only be seen if drawn close, if invited. Love blinds. The reflection is idyllic, but the image is still fractured. The hard work of marriage, once passion finds its balance, is to hold onto that blindness and live the fairy tale.
What had begun as a friendship had blossomed into a love that devolved back to friendship. It was seven years before we connected again exchanging Christmas cards, pictures of the kids and the perfunctory Christmas letters extolling their achievements. And that was it for 25 years until an exchange of new addresses revealed divorce, not happily ever after, was at the end of the road. The death of a marriage is a two-step process. First comes the emotional divorce when sharing space once intimate becomes painful. Then followed, in time, by the legal one if restoration or independence are not possible. Fault is shared. Failure is owned.
And so, we began again. Here was our first “perfunctory” Christmas letter reunited:
A Christmas Fairy Tale
Once upon a time (about 1967), there was a little blue frog and a little red-haired princess. The frog and the princess lived in a giant castle called LaFollette within the kingdom of Ball State in the land of Muncie. The frog lived with the other frogs in the moat called Hurst and the princess lived with the other princesses in the Mysch palace. The frog admired the little red-haired princess from afar and would do whatever he could to be near her and hope to gain her favor. The little red-haired princess thought he was cute and would share her time with him as she represented her palace government and worked on the homecoming float. Over time, the frog became more and more infatuated with the little red-haired princess until one day he realized he loved her as none other. One day, the frog decided to express his desire to date the princess. The princess was taken aback! After all he was a frog and she was a princess. But the frog was persistent, and, in time, the princess came not to see him not as a frog at all but as a prince. Then one moonlit, starry night beneath the glow of a campus lamp, the little blue frog mustered up all his courage and kissed the little red-haired princess. To his joy, she returned his kiss. The angels began to sing; the moon smiled down; the stars in the heavens danced. The frog and the princess were happy beyond belief and were inseparable. But while the princess could look at the frog and see a prince, many of the peasants could only see a frog. The peasants mocked the princess for forgetting her place and scorned the frog for forgetting he was just a frog. After years of the peasants’ taunts, the little red-haired princess ran away to a far-off land called Virginia to forget the ugly peasants and the little blue frog she loved. The little blue frog was devastated and after waiting seven years for her return, he wandered off to find another princess like the one with red hair. Twenty-five years passed and many trials were laid upon the frog. Eventually, the frog wandered back to his swamp and dreamed of the little red-haired princess he had loved with such devotion. He remembered how much a part of him she had become and realized she would always be. He remembered how easily they had shared each other’s thoughts, sometimes without even speaking them. He remembered how they had laughed together. One day as the little blue frog sat watching the swamp gas rise, he saw a reflection in the water that reminded him of his beloved princess. He looked up and there was the little re-haired princess right before his very eyes. The princess told him of the strife that had befallen her since she fled the kingdom and him. She told him of how she still loved him and had never forgotten how he had made her feel. Now she had returned home in hopes of finding the little blue frog and spend the rest of her life with him. The princess no longer cared what the ugly peasants might say. She was even willing to become a frog too just to share their love forever. The little blue frog was elated to the nth degree for he had given up hope the little red-haired princess would ever return to him. He loved her still. So, if you should ever visit the castle of Marcia and Charlie and see two little blue frogs sitting by the door, you will understand the love they feel for each other.
Life is a decision tree and we grasp one branch after another to climb unsure, other than upward, just where it will lead. The canopy of leaves of daily life obscure the ultimate destination. The winds blow through and unexpected gusts move you from one limb to another unchosen but still you climb. Then in the fall when the tree stands bare are you able to look back and see from where you have come and hope to be pleased with the journey.