In the long ago days, before every home had a word-processor, and even before I had my beloved secondhand typewriter, I wrote stories. My writing was for myself, or for my children, as it never occurred to me that I could ever really “be a writer,” although that was what I always answered when asked.
My handwriting was better in those days, perhaps because I wrote daily. Some of my short tales were good, some were bad, and most have vanished over time.
This little tale survived the many moves and purges, and dates back to 1984.
A LITTLE LOVE STORY
An old man and his wife of many years sit on a rough bench outside the door to their home. It’s a rough cabin, just one large room with a large attic. The furniture is rough but sturdy and clean from daily scrubbing as is the rest of the home. Everything in their home they built or made for themselves, right down to the small flute the old man plays as the old woman mends his rough, homespun shirt.
It’s just the two of them now; their son has long since married and moved away. Occasionally they walk the two day’s journey to see him and his family, but it’s unlikely they will ever do so again.
To look at them it would be hard – nay – impossible to believe they ever were young and beautiful or strong and handsome but once upon a time they were just that.
Once upon a time, the old woman had abundant dark hair, thick and curling to her knees when it was unbound. Her dark eyes were full of fun and her red lips smiled often. When she thought of what her life would be like, she knew without a doubt she would be as rich as a queen, and as happy as any woman could ever be. To her, the future was as bright as new-minted gold; all things were possible.
Her laughter made the grumpiest person smile. The entire village loved her, and though many a handsome, well-to-do young man wanted her for his wife, her eyes saw only the poor but hardworking son of the carpenter’s widow. Whenever she was asked, she vowed she would only marry the young man with the easy smile that charmed all who saw him.
Once upon a time, the old man was handsome, tall and strong, with a smile to melt the hardest heart. But no matter how many beautiful girls danced with him, or tried to kiss him, he only saw her – the merchant’s daughter. She filled his dreams and he vowed to all that he would wed only her.
Everyone said theirs was a story of true and eternal love.
He worked hard, and built the small house for her with his own hands, swearing it was only the beginning of the fine mansion he would build for her and vowing she would live a life of ease and luxury. Her father was pleased and gave him her hand in marriage.
She didn’t care. She would have lived in a mud hut if it meant she would be with him.
One beautiful spring day and they were married and the entire village celebrated. They lived blissfully for the first year, and the following spring they were blessed with a child.
It is sad but true: to know what happiness is, a person must understand sorrow and pain. Their infant son didn’t live for more than a day. Heartbroken, they buried their child and tried to go on with their life. Over the next five years, they buried three more children. Only the love she had for her husband kept her going. In his arms, she found solace and peace. His steadfast love and support carried her through those dark days, and though she was not the merry girl she once had been, she was still a good-natured, loving wife.
The good old king died, and his son took the throne. The young king’s rule was not as kind or as benevolent as his father’s rule had been. He taxed the people cruelly and life became hard, but still their home was their haven.
Each night they fell asleep in each other’s arms and in the morning they woke happy.
One spring the brash young king’s men came to the village and took her husband to fight the war in a land far away. Bereft and alone, she struggled to keep the home they had built, taking in sewing and laundry, working hard and praying morning and night for her husband’s safe return.
After two seasons had passed, the goddess heard her prayers. Though she feared he would be lost to her, her husband came home, wounded and with a limp which he never lost, but alive and still strong in his love for her. His smile had grown melancholy while he was away, but still melted her heart whenever he smiled at her, which he did at every opportunity.
At long last they were blessed with a healthy boy, and not only did he survive, he thrived in the sunshine of his parent’s love.
And their days passed, turning into years. The king’s taxman saw to it they never grew rich, but he could never steal their true wealth. The boy grew to be a strong, handsome lad and one day he married, leaving his parents somewhat lonely but happy for their son. And still time passed.
In middle age the woman was still striking; strong and nice to look at, though she had grown somewhat stout. Her laugh was jolly, and her smile still as free as it had always been and she was known by all to be a good and generous woman. When good advice was needed the village sought her out, and her wisdom never failed them; she was as a mother to them all.
The man was still strong but needed a straw hat when working, as his hair was growing thinner with the years. The younger men admired his strength and heeded his wisdom.
Each night the man and woman kept each other warm and every morning they woke happy, knowing they would spend it working together in the little kingdom which was their home.
The old woman’s hair became thin and white, and her smile lacked all the teeth she once had, but the old man still saw the most beautiful girl in the world.
The old man’s pate became as bald as an egg, and his scraggly beard white as snow. He too lacked some teeth, but when she looked at him she saw the one boy in the world who made her heart skip a beat; the boy for whom she would have done anything to have for her own.
An old man and his wife of many years sit on a rough bench outside the door to their home. When they sit there, they are rich. Their home is finer than any castle ever known and their lives more blessed. Every promise the man ever made to his wife was kept, if not in the manner he once had planned, although he has only just recently come to understand that.
Every dream she’d ever had came true, though she too only realized it as she became an old woman.
The Goddess of Hearth and Home looks on them and smiles. One day soon, they will be young and strong, and merry and free again. One day soon they will rise from the bench hand in hand and walk into the sunlight, together forever and always, leaving old shells behind, no longer needed.
One day, soon.
A Little Love Story, © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson