Love Story: The Last Page


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. 🙂

19 thoughts on “Love Story: The Last Page

  1. Pat medina

    Loved the story. Enjoyed it from beginning to end. I live in Mexico and my daughter married and with a beautiful baby live in Germany too.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Your drawings are lovely and your kids too

    1. Steph

      Aww, Lena you finished it so beautifully! I totally had a happy lump in my throat. Sort of like when I tried to give a speech at your wedding. Haha.
      Looking forward to following the next project!

    2. Elena

      Thank you so much, Pat! And thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment, it’s so amazing to hear that there are people in different perts of the world who read and appreciated! My parents are across the ocean too, as I’m sure you gathered – It’s hard to be so far, isn’t it? Thank goodness for the internet! xo

  2. Shannon Kalyniak

    I am totally in tears… Beautiful and hopeful and mysterious and true. I love your story, and loved our talks during our little epic adventure. “There is something deeper at work”

    1. Elena

      Oh Shannon! Thank you so much! You know you were an integral piece of it all, as my sister friend and confident. When I think of all those bus trips, i see your face helping me piece it all together. Love you!

  3. Lauren Clark

    You are soooo lovely! Finding your work during the 100 day project, then continuing to follow afterwards has been a joy! I feel very connected in similarity that when I read from your life I get excited about my own. Being in art school now and getting married soon, its a crazyyyy time so thanks for being so honest and authentic in everything. Would so love to meet you one day and just gleen off who you are! Thanks for sharing <3

    1. Elena

      haha aww Lauren, what an awesome comment! I would love to meet you, too! That is the amazing gift that we’ve got in the internet, eh? It just opens up the pool of people we have the chance to connect with, near and far. I’m excited for your life, too! Sending twinkling magic to sprinkle on you and your brand new marriage, wherever you are! xoxo

  4. Catriona Talbot

    Elena, I have loved every word of this story. This last page made me cry, not tears of sadness, nor tears of joy, just tears of overwhelming recognition of the essence of love. I’ve never read anything that describes love as well as you describe it here.

    1. Elena

      What a gorgeous thing to say, Catriona. I feel it in my heart, sister. Thank you!! You don’t know how amazing it feels to know there are people like you who can so relate. It’s so affirming! Buckets of love, sister.

  5. Yvette Cherry

    Hi Elena, you don’t know me but my son is good friends with your brother. Your parents and brother just left my house after a little visit and after I told your mom my story of my husband and I, she told me I would really like your love story. So I came straight away to your blog and found it! Our stories have so many similarities and I laughed a lot knowingly to myself reading it! Real, tested and tried love is intensely powerful when you fight for it and my husband and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year. I resisted the inevitability of our coming together for 8 years and also came so close to losing it. In our letting go, God can move. Bless you and your family Elena:)


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