Not what she expected.
My sweet ten-year-old looked up at me from behind the soft covers. With tears in her eyes she mumbled,
Maybe your next anniversary will be better.
I cocked my head to the side,
Better than what?
She went on,
Maybe you and Dad will be able to go out and have dinner… I don’t know.
I smiled into her innocent eyes. These young recipients of endless princess tales vividly displayed on wide-screen. The princesses who get clothing lines and figurines and jewels. The ones who sing like angels and fight like brave hearts. The ones who struggle through adversity and end up in a life that’s – perfect. With a theme park thrown in.
Sweetie, this was a good anniversary. I got to see my honey… you know, Dad. I was able to hang out with all of you. We are healthy and fed and in a home – all together. That IS a good anniversary.
She looked at me suspiciously,
Ok. But, it’s your anniversary.
I went on, trying to convince this young girl of the beauty of simplicity,
Well, and maybe we can go out to dinner someplace really nice… really soon.
She smiled and hugged my neck,
Ok, Mom, that sounds great. Maybe you can drive to the mountains or something.
(I’m fairly sure she wanted to add… in a horse-drawn carriage)
I tucked her sweet innocence into bed, blew kisses, and turned off the light.
I looked at my warrior,
You know, she wonders why this wasn’t more romantic. She’s watching and wondering where the fairy tale is.
He and I both chuckled, knowing the fairy tale in this chapter is six sleeping children. That is a good anniversary.
Fairy tales. The funny thing is, I grew up hearing my mother’s German fairy tales, and they were far from the story we show our own kids. The original versions involved pain and healing, life and death, beauty and horror. I have books my mother saved – the old hardback German books from our childhood. The characters are running around with hair on fire and thumbs cut off. Pretty morbid stuff. And I didn’t fall apart… as far as I remember. The real stuff of real fairy tales… was real. Or at least not glossed over and fluffed up.
The beauty in the reality of it all… was the end. The redemptive stories intertwined with mayhem. A little bit more like… life.
The fairy tales on our screens today might just bring our princesses (and our princes) crashing down – to reality. There is romance, there is true love, there is charm and beauty… but, it’s not perfect. Not yet.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a beautiful ending all tied up in a bow. There is no Disney-deficiency anemia in our home.
I love that Pocahontas had a heart-gripping romance with John Smith – even though in real life it wasn’t true. In real life, legend has it, she was a brave soul who saved the neck of John Smith and married a man named John Rolfe. She was baptized a Christian and given the name Rebecca.
I love that little red-haired Ariel marries the prince, grows feet, and has a fabulously explosive wedding. Even though the mermaid fairy tale of my childhood told how the mermaid not only longed to be with the prince, but also deeply desired the eternal human soul. This eternal soul – mermaids don’t have. The story in our old German book ended in her death. It made me sad as a kid.
Yes, I love the glossy new versions, but I wonder if they really prepare our little warriors for the real deal? The battle in this life for faith and hope and love. And, it is a battle. The battle worth living for.
Hans Christian Andersen said it well,
Every person’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s finger.
Not the glossy versions, but the real, raw stories of recklessness and redemption… of doubt and deliverance… of fear and freedom. Of life and death. And, Life.
Maybe I’ll pull those old fairy tales out and read them to my kids. I’ll read the German version to the sound of giggles and translate the stories to English. The real versions, as they were really written. Maybe kids can handle the messy tales – knowing the glory is coming in the end.
The important part is the ending. It doesn’t always end well… here. The real ending hasn’t come yet. The best part – the real ending is the real beginning.
A confession. I already read the last page, and… spoiler alert…
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.