Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why I Love Fairy Tales

I’ve adored fairy tales since I was a little girl, and they may be one of the reasons I write sweet romances.
I had several collections of them, and my mother read the stories to me at bedtime. The only one I didn’t like was Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” because it had such a sad ending. The first time I heard it, I cried and cried, and forbade Mom to ever read it again. Years later, I reread it, and still found the ending tragic. When Disney released the cartoon version, I was delighted with the revised happy ending.
Of all the stories, I loved “Cinderella” the most. It was probably because I related so strongly to her.
My father died when I was seven, leaving only enough money to bury him. Mom was left to raise my younger brother and me by herself as a single mother in an era when there were few of those. It was several years following my dad’s death before I actually knew anyone else with only one parent.
Mom had to go to work in order to provide for our basic needs, so I became responsible not only for myself, but also for my brother and many of the household chores.
By the age of twelve, in addition to the other tasks around the house, I had sole responsibility for meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. That had to be accomplished on an extremely limited budget.
Until I was married, I wore nothing but hand-me-down clothes, and few of them. There was rarely enough money for extras. A special meal eaten out was a hamburger from McDonalds perhaps once a month. The first real sit-down restaurant I can remember going to was when my aunt and uncle took us to dinner to celebrate my sixteenth birthday. I’d never felt so awkward. I had no idea what to do or how to behave.
I first spotted my own prince across an empty schoolyard when I was about ten. I recently shared that memory with Larry, and he immediately incorporated it into the story of Tiffany in his latest book, Lakeview Park.
He was my first date at age fourteen, but we went out with other people until I was seventeen when we began dating again. We married the week after my nineteenth birthday, and I’ve never regretted that decision. In fact, the license plate holder on my convertible reads: “DON’T BOTHER ME, I’M LIVING HAPPILY EVER AFTER.” And it’s true.
He wasn’t rich, but he certainly was—and still is—very handsome. And I never took him for granted. I was all too aware of just how tenuous life can be.
We have shared an amazing life for over forty-six years, traveling the world, making friends, and laughing a lot.
Even during the past year, filled with the loss of so many family members and close friends, I am still able to focus on the blessing of having known them.
My brother, the world’s greatest pessimist, always grumbles that I see the glass half-full. He’s wrong. I usually see the glass filling to overflowing.
How did I learn to expect happy endings? From Cinderella, of course.