When I was in my later teens, I went through a phase that lasted until a couple of years ago. I preached that fairytales do not exist, that Disney has ruined us all, making us fall in love with romance, but not with responsibility, with fluttery feelings, but not with constancy.
I experienced this as a firm reality through romantic relationships. I saw guys romance and then run, woo and then retreat, be different than the rest and then the same.
I based my entire mentality on this particular sort of love and its flippancy towards its victims left in its cold, awful wake.
But, “Now and then, in this workaday world, things do happen in the delightful storybook fashion, and what a comfort that is.”
This quote is one of my favorites from my favorite book, “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott. It was said at a moment when all the hearts of the March women would burst if one more drop of happiness were to enter their hearts. It was Christmas and Beth had been improving in health and wishing in her quiet selfless heart that Mr. March would come home from war and Jo wished for love in a fairytale sort of way and for someone to see her vividly (I understand Jo the best out of them all) and Laurie hoped for extravagance. Hannah knew from the beginning of the day that it would be fine. Jo and Laurie brought laughter in their typical snow maiden building fashion, Beth brought the quiet sunshine that would only be fully realized in her passing, and Hannah, well Hannah was the prophetess of the day. She was right. The day was lovely and sweetly happy. As the day progressed, it continued in the same way. Jo offered all her gifts with grandeur and ridiculous speech.
The only thing that would cause their hearts to burst from within would be if their father returned to be with them. Soon enough, Laurie exclaimed that he had one more present for the day. Mr. Brooke entered with Mr. March leaning on him for strength to walk. Jo nearly fainted with her dramatic and somewhat disgraceful sort of love. Meg was constant with hers in her calm, appropriate and joyous manner. Of course it was Amy who ran into her father and knelt down to kiss his boots in her childlike sort of love. Hannah wept in her broken sort of love and Beth tenderly cried and laughed in her satisfied and pure love. And Mrs. March thanked Mr. Brooke for his faithful care of her husband and with her mature love, she was full.
It was in this moment that I think every woman knew in her own way that the storybooks do not come close to replicating the perfection of this sort of special existence on this particular Christmas day. The past bitterness was melted away because of it and looking back, the painful moments and years suddenly became bearable and even accepted with open arms due to this one fairy tale moment. The love experienced was not the kind that has victims, but the kind that creates heroines, the kind that makes a person free, not afraid or wearisome, the kind that lifts and allows a person to learn how to fly.
It is this kind of love that causes me to reform my belief that fairytales are for those who do not want to face life. Quite the contrary, it is for those who choose to face it with gusto, with courage to love and to be free not to enslave the one who chooses not to love back. The experiences that have hurt that I expressed in the beginning are changed in this light too. They do not stop me from loving fully, but they inform me that to throw away my Jo-like personality, with all its drama and ridiculous wild beauty, for the sake of these disappointments would be a great sin indeed. It would be a choice to keep all to myself, to lock myself in a solitary room to not ever be hurt but also to never be truly loved by others, romantic and otherwise. I would miss out on a Christmas Day like the one that belonged to the March family forever.
“Love Jo all your days, if you choose, but don’t let it spoil you, for it is wicked to throw away so many gifts because you can’t have the one you want.”