Happily Ever After?

It doesn’t happen when you’d expect it to. Not in the burst of celebration and the pomp of ceremony. Not in the perfectly planned I-dos, nor in the afterglow of two glorious honeymoons.

It doesn’t happen when you want it to, pretending not to wish it here. Calmly and then less calmly trying to summon that invisible cable to connect us, for all the world to see.

It doesn’t happen in the raw rub of disappointment or the itch of unmet expectations, even though that’s when I hope it would kick in the strongest.

And so I resign myself to accepting that it is either a gradual awakening—the kind where forty years later, sitting on a stoep together, laughing, I finally see it, feel it and realise that it’s been there for some time. Or it is never there—the lie underneath the fairy tale of magic-ness I bought into generations ago, but whose only real truth is an ever-after of unrealistic hopes and fantasy.

Then something happens on an unsuspecting Monday morning: We are walking down a mountain path and over beachy outcrops, to a place of significance to me—a family history spot of grief and release—when I realise that it has become a place of significance for you too.

That is when it happens.

A rush of realisation that you and I; we are a family. That we are in this, bound in this unit, union, together. A we.

And we have our moment at the oceanside rock-pool of meaning. We recall the past together, one that you’ve only witnessed through my eyes, but that you have embraced as yours now too. You ask questions and give me a moment with her. We take out our breakfast of picnic croissants and feed the left-overs to the white flailing seagulls. We spot blue sea urchins and dodge frothing, electric waves. Together we say good-bye to the spirit of my mom as we walk back over the tide-worn rocks, up wooden stairs without testing their give, through the green underbrush and over the peak of the moss-covered cliff, leaving the jade crash of high tide behind us.

Nothing has changed. All of the fresh flower blossoms and lush green plants and vivid beauty are exactly how they were when we passed them on our way down.

But things feel rearranged somehow. A fresh view. The emergence of a new order. Not the order I had been waiting for, but, as often happens when you’re on the watch for something specific, the broadside of new colours and new feelings are staggering in their shape and size. A gushing surprise. And so much more significant than had that thing happened that I was waiting for.

 

Marriage is a curious thing. And now, like in my dreams, it is a thing we share deeply and together.