Love Story: The Last Page
December 17, 2015
To us, it feels like a new story starts here. It’s not that it wasn’t still confusing or messy at times, it really was. I mean, it still is! But it wasn’t a question of if there was an “us” anymore. That much was clear.
We still didn’t go to Spain together. I spent two tortilla and café con leche fuelled months lugging backpacks with my friend Shannon, basking in a blur of art galleries, mossy castles and winding, white sunbaked streets; running my fingers over miles of intricate tile work, and sleeping in filthy little beds. He picked me up from the Frankfurt airport and I stayed for two cozy weeks, just before Christmas. As I remember it, we mostly just lay around by the fireplace. Flipped through old photo albums and VHS tapes. Went for drives.
We drove an hour to visit his grandmother. He loves his Oma, small and spunky, and quite resolutely okay with herself, he really wanted me to meet her. Nestled into the 1960s built-in dining nook, she fed us noodles and beef with heavy cream sauce and then we walked to the church just up the street. Its rolling garden is a former pilgrimage site, now a little wild and overgrown, with weathered stone statues and wonky stained glass chapels hiding here and there in the sun-dappled foliage. I watched Achim, steadying her tiny frame and laughing easily as she told us coy little stories about hiding love letters there when she was a child… Holding her closer through sadder ones about praying in the chapel during the war. She was married in that church, and so were her parents, and her children too. And three years later, as the sun cracked open after a cathartic rain shower, 20 minutes late – my fault, naturally – so were we.
So many anecdotes, little threads that knit us together. Eerily, we learned that our parents were married on the exact same Saturday in 1975. A strange, serendipitous sequence of events involving both of us lead Achim to essentially talk his way into the PhD Economics program at the University of Toronto, weeks after the application process had closed. He moved to Toronto, and we spent the next 7 years there together. We rented a tiny, old attic apartment, I liked to imagine we were living in a treehouse. That’s what it felt like – our cluttered but bright little nook in the sky. We drank a lot of coffee. Talked and talked. We had our first baby there, and both finished school. We stayed up for nights on end applying for economist positions all over the world.
But that feels like another story. Or another chapter of this one, anyway.
For the moment, we live in Germany, only maybe a kilometer from the apartment Achim lived in when I visited him those years ago. We have two sweet babies. Otherwise, we are very much the same. I am still scattered, emotional and excitable, and he is still the calm, the logical, the steady, although we’ve both leaned in a little.
Sometimes I don’t know why Achim loved me, and still loves me so much. As you can see, I did not make things easy. Actually, he admits it doesn’t always make sense to him either. There is something deeper at work there that we don’t understand entirely. It’s hard to explain. You may have noticed that somewhere in each of my illustrations for this story, I used the same wash of blue grey paint. It was actually just a piece of paper Jonah was scribbling on, which I then clumsily painted over and scanned in on a whim.
I didn’t plan it that way, but it turned into something symbolic. It stands for that nebulous, beautiful thing that surrounds us, holds us gently and powerfully. It’s like the air, that sparkling, eternal thing that never leaves us, but… is easy to forget about. Life, our relationship included, can get ugly, messy, boring, or sad. I mean, it can feel that way. Let’s be real. We don’t have this amazingly harmonious life together. I’m pretty sure our neighbours think I’m crazy. But then, there is that thing, that inexplicable, twinkling, breathtaking thing. That thing that’s so much bigger than us, and when I can get over myself I can hear the quiet whisper, to just stop. Love and let love… and there we are again. There is that sparkle.
Actually, it was there all along.
Page 17/17. Sigh. And, that is that.
Thank you so much for reading! Guys, for real, your comments, here and on IG and FB have been so encouraging. It’s been really kinda special to spend the time thinking on our relationship story over the past few months. Lol, sometimes I would have a chunk of time to work on it while I happened to be feeling really annoyed with Achim for whatever mundane domestic thing he did or didn’t do, and I’d feel this bratty resistance, but then I’d do it anyway and the anger would melt away. It’s been good for us!
Again, thanks so much for reading! Big, twinkly love to you and yours this Holiday season!
p.s. You can read from the very beginning here, if you’ve just joined in. 🙂