I like to read fiction. It is a pleasure and an escape for me and I think it helps me be a better person in general to picture other people and their circumstances. Sometimes after I finish a book, some of the ideas will stick in my head for awhile and I feel like I'm seeing life through a different window for a while, noticing new things. Sometimes one gets stuck in my head like a song might, where you like the song but wish it would go away because you are sick of the broken record. (I've read Gone with the Wind three times and each time it takes me about three weeks to "get over it"). Well, in honor of my alma mater, I gave in to the hype and finished off the Twilight Series (by BYU author, Stephanie Meyer). Her books are highly absorbing, suspenseful and very romantic, and very long (yeah, yeah I read 700 pages in less than 24 hours and still played with my kids). The first two were good for me especially because I read them while Cooper was in the hospital and it was nice for a distraction. The one I just finished had some really interesting themes (especially coming from a Mormon perspective) about immortality and eternal love. That part I very much enjoyed. I do have to caution myself a little though, because the characters in her books are so very perfect in every way and I shouldn't feel bad or sad if I'm not like a fairy tale. (Well, in this case, a vampire tale, where both hero and heroine are immortal, indestructible, richer than England, sappier than Romeo and Juliet, beautiful beyond belief, kind, and somehow never have any demands on their time. Now that's fiction!) Now that it has been a few days since I finished, I've been thinking about real life love, and how, although not always novel-perfect, it can be pretty darn close.
Here's just one comparison taken from Edward, the rich "tame", Bruce-Waynish vampire. He is worried sick that his lovey is going to die before the wedding and her pending immortality. So he buys her this extravagant Saudi Arabian car that is bomb proof, bullet proof, tank proof, fire proof... you get the picture. After I finished reading that I thought, wow. I love Mark but I just don't feel that worried and concerned about him all the time. What's wrong with me? Then sitting in the adult session of Stake Conference with him last night I finally got it. We've been married for eternity, just like a fairytale, and if there was something that WAS going to threaten his worthiness or his ability to return to where we really want to go, I WOULD risk life and limb and do anything in my power to protect him. Likewise for my children. (So then I felt better.) Then, my eyes were open a little and I looked around. I was surrounded by many extremely beautiful people. Seriously! Novel worthy! Also some pretty ordinary, but happy looking people. But you know what really stuck out? They were at the adult session, without their kids, and almost every last couple I knew just looked so thrilled to be together. Our beautiful friends in front of us were whispering and passing notes. He's in the bishopric and they never get to sit together. My visiting teaching partner, mother of six, was there with her husband who is always out of town, and they had the whole row to themselves with their arms around each other, listening and smiling. An elderly wife to the left of us was playing with the back of her husband's neck and smiling up at him like a bride. Mark, concerned for my comfort already after three months only of pregnancy, asked me if I wanted him to get me a soft seat. I'm telling you, romance is alive and well and very real if you just look around a little.
I was telling Mark some of my observations after the meeting and I remembered that his Grandparents would have fit the bill perfectly. They were so close that they even intentionally dressed alike (back when men could find a polyester suit of any color). He was the postmaster in Fillmore Utah and also a much requested performer at every community gathering for his voice and collection of humorous songs. I never got to meet him but I much enjoyed reading his memoirs. I think he was probably alot like Mark. (His nickname among his quorum brethren was, sarcastically, "Lawbreaker", because he was such a straight arrow.) He served as a sealer in the Manti temple for years and wrote that he loved serving with his wife Melva because every time he saw her in her white dress, she just was so incredibly beautiful and looked like an angel to him. Glasses, gray hair, wrinkles and all. (I added that last part, not him. She probably was extremely beautiful. I never got to meet her, either.)
Let me just close this lengthy letter about love with one of my favorite memories from when we went to France, where they really know about that kind of stuff, I guess. We got to have Sunday dinner with the Merciers, a lovely older couple who knew Mark on his mission. The husband, Michel, was serving as branch president when we visited. They live in Normandy in a cottage near the coast. (Sister Mercier's cooking was fabulous and the memory is distracting this pregnant woman for a moment...) While we were finishing up and showing some pictures we had brought of Mark's life since the mission, he had some grandfatherly advice for us. His eyes brimmed over with tears. "Marry-ahge. [translate hear, marriage] Eet ees ze BEST sing een life."