Draft 15

Have you ever read the perfect love story?  Have you picked up a book and got lost in the rush of emotions, the push and pull of two people who finding their way to a sum that is greater than their parts?  Felt the dawn of someone waking to the realization that there is another person who may or may not be like them, but is their alike nonetheless?  Reveled in the ordinary magic created by steadfast and constants between two people?  Probably, you have.  And even more likely, someone has had several thousand (usually unsolicited and unnecessary, so keep your thoughts to yourself until book club, Brenda mmmkay?) reasons why that isn't the perfect love story.  Happens all the time.  I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and declared it The Most True and Authentic Teen Love Story For All-Time- plaque at engraver's- and passed it off to many a good friend with the promise that it is A Great Love Story.  Many agreed with me, possibly under duress as I glowered at them from above the book's edge, and then my friend, Chelsea, told me it's awful.  She wanted everything to work out on the page; the ending was too open.  There were too many ways for things not to work out where that particular story ends.  All the reasons Chelsea was mad about the book were reasons why I loved it.  This perfect love story for me wasn't for her.  Repeat the scenario with my sister and A Tale of Two Cities.  For her it was overwrought, overworded (not an actual word, but work with me), and overly tragic.  For me, it was the best of love stories in the worst of ways.  What was beautiful to me was rubbish to her.  Happens all the time.  Here's why: love stories are hard.

If Chelsea and Carrie (and if them then there are others with these unfortunate views) don't fall under the spell of a simple love story with life happening around it, there must be other, better examples of words encompassing the thing that is hardest to create but simple enough to fall into.  Right?  Thornbirds? No, that seems like a poor choice or poor choice upon poor choice upon poor choice rather.  Wuthering Heights? Ugh, if the scenery is as dark and brooding as one of our protagonists then we have a problem.  Maybe move off the moor and get some sun in your life, man.  The Last of the Mohicans?  Too much senseless death.  Jack and Rose on the Titanic?*  Obviously not.  Love means never having to die of hypothermia when someone could just MOVE OVER ON THE FLOATING PIECE OF PIANO!  Romeo and Juliet?  Oh swear not by the pull of teenage lust and heedless rebellion.  There is too much tragedy and too little actual love in that runaway train of pride and short-sightedness for it to be the perfect love story.  If the Immortal Bard biffed that hard on a love story what, then, are we mere mortals to look toward as exemplars of true love?

I suppose the difficulty in pinning down a perfect love story is that love happens to be just as unique as the individuals who find themselves in it.  Love *is* a many splendored thing because the participants are many splendored beings.  And that makes it hard to really nail the landing on a story that appeals to all.  So thank goodness we don't have to keep the versions we have read in books or lived in our day-to-day.  Praise be to the rough draft!  In the love stories of our own lives, we can edit prodigiously.  With care, we can write and re-write and amend and expand and strengthen our love stories.  They are a work in progress so long as we are.  That is my big reveal:  we can keep writing if we'd like.  We don't have to be perfect the first go-round of anything, especially not the first go-round as something as amorphous and ineffable as love.

Sean and I are currently working on Draft 15 of our particular story.  In Draft 1, Sean went away.  I cared little for that.  In Draft 3, Sweet Girl was introduced upon the stage and the stage has never been the same.  We thought our love story was the two of us and then it was the three of us.  In Draft 4, we built the House of Many Felled Pine Trees.  Twas lovely, so of course the Army would move us.  In Draft 6, the three of us became the four of us and the four of us moved - when Little Man was the littlest - to a new state in time for Sean to be away again.  I cared so little for that version that I struggled to care for myself.  If there ever was a love story it is written by those who love their people even as their people can't love themselves.  So I kept my sights on Draft 7 and 8 when we moved again.  Those drafts saw the four of us mostly together, and happier times prevailed.  In Draft 11, we found a home.  In many drafts we suffered great losses.  In every draft we counted ourselves as lucky.  The setting has changed, characters have come and gone, plot twists abound, and yet we remain.  Praise be to the rough drafts that got us here and may we draft many more.  There is love yet to write.

*I am aware this is not a book but it needed to be addressed.


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