Friday, December 30, 2011

It was always each other (I search for a love story)

There hasn't been a real dose of sunshine in days - it's grey skies and English temperatures as far as the eye can see. I stretch in the early morning and look out my smudged, 18th century windows with their chipped frames. I see the grass sprinkled with frost, the old pile of rocks next to the pine tree where we used to play pirate ship. I see the outline of our property and the line we used to walk right up to, where the milkweed burst forth in summer and I would open the pouches and trace my fingers down the silk spines of the seeds, and then toss them, handful by handful, towards the sky. Those summers it rained white seeds.

This morning I remember my grandparents.

They got married in what we would call a rush - meeting like they did in November, no engagement to speak of, married in March in two smart conservative suits and off into the world. I'd say they got married in a fever.

But my grandparents weren't really like that. It was March, 1948, after the war and before the children. It was a small sapphire tucked between two diamonds on her finger and the plain gold band on his, the bright smiles and the damp English weather. They knew, my dad tells me. It was always each other. They entered married simply, quietly even, and for the next fifty years their love grew through stone houses and out-of-tune pianos and labradors and muddy boots and two boys who loved fields and farms and lambing.

It grew through all the smallness I forget about: the thin china cups at their feet and the perpetual smell of fire and damp moss, how they could sit in a silence more loving than all my fancy adjectives and long speeches about love. And through all my twenty years of knowing them, I never heard them tell their story. Granddad smoked his pipe, and Granny knitted her tea cozy, and I sat on the stool by their feet with my black Mary Janes poking out at awkward angles, my tongue between my teeth and my eyes fixed on Almanzo Wilder and Laura Ingalls. I read about a great love story while I sat in the midst of one.

I remember finding old black and white pictures of them, marveling that once they were young, once Dad had been a little boy in overalls clutching a sheep to his knees. I remember coughing from the dust in their abandoned bedroom two years ago and crying, suddenly and violently, for the story I had never thought to ask them. For the story of their love, their beginning.

So this cold English morning, the windows rattle and shiver, the fire burns. I trace my finger over her engagement ring in its original 1947 box, that my dad brought home last year after her funeral. It's too big for me now, but I slip it on and I slip into their love story. I imagine asking them the hundred questions I forgot to ask. I imagine watching their eyes wrinkle in remembrance, their smiles widen, the teacups clattering against the cold stone of the floor. I imagine the house again, and the hundreds of pages of love hidden inside it.

This year, somehow, I promise to search for their love story. This year, somehow, I promise to write it. 



  1. This is lovely, Hilary. The loss of stories is one of the hardest aspects of the death of a grandparent. That's what I mourn the most at times.

  2. I adore love stories. And this post has prompted me to get a few more loved ones' love stories in words on paper before it's too late. Thank you for that.

    And? I can't wait to read what you piece together of your grandparents' story.


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