How do you tell a great story? Mabel asked her friend Gertrude.
Mabel imagined herself a great writer. Gert grinned, and quietly said It has to be about love. Her face soft, her eyes turned up at the corner, she sat back in her chair, proud for coming to such a magnificent conclusion.
Gert recalled her cousin Sophia telling her. I know exactly what love is Gertie. Maybe you will be lucky enough to fall into love. Nick is the man for me. He understands me. He’s my missing piece, my better half. I’m going to spend the rest of my life thanking him for making me so happy.
Gertrude had fallen in love and remembered that conversation while rocking her baby to sleep one night. Tears slid from her eyes. Nick had been abusive and critical, spent Sophia’s savings, broke her heirloom china and left her alone. Sophia was wrong about love.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Mabel’s rapidly tapping pencil. Come on Gertrude, you have to give me more than that to go on, she moaned.
I have a friend who is in love, Gertrude rambled. She says that you love when you are ready to give up everything for someone else.
Mabel smirked, tried to hide or soften her reaction to Gertrude’s ridiculous idea. She sighed impatiently.
I think I can help you get started Mabel, People always enjoy a good love story. When I was eleven my Aunt Grace took me for a walk. This is what she told me…when you love a boy, Gertie, you will feel very different. It is amazing to kiss, to be held in someone’s arms and gazed upon as if you were a sparkling diamond. That leaves you feeling important, cared for and protected. You realize good things about yourself for the first time. He looked at you so long with those eyes filled with care. You must be beautiful. He held you as if you might break. You must be precious. And there is more.
He told everyone he was going to spend his life with you. You must be intelligent, fascinating, and creative. He sold his bicycle to buy you an engagement ring. You must be priceless. He wants to build you a house, sleep with you in his arms all the rest of his days. He must know you are worth every sacrifice.
When you are loved, you start to see love around you. You see a teenager smiling at a baby, a woman arranging flowers in a florist window, a policeman holding the hand of an elderly man as he crosses a city street. Doves flying in pairs.
Just then, Mabel’s granddaughter Kimberly walked into the room. She held three cups of tea and asked if she could join them. “I heard you talking about love,” she said. Her smile was radiant.
She was intrigued by these older women. It was not unusual for her to join them, armed with tea, a deck of cards or a checker game board. Kimberly always made Mabel and Gertrude feel loved.
Well Mabel is writing another story, said Gertrude… I said it should be about love. What do you think?
Kimberly passed out warm teacups and gently sat in the chair between them. She was recently graduated from college and working with young children.
Grandma, we sang together when I was little. Remember Shower the People You Love With Love? You explained that love has many meanings. You said if we could come up with one definition and put it into a bottle everyone would want to buy it. I tried to talk you into doing that and you laughed.
You said that love never means the same thing two days in a row. It is one of those amazing words that get used too often, used for the wrong things, even misused; that love changes, love is an evolving experience. I wrote that down and thought about it all through high school and college. Love is an evolving experience. I thought you were amazing then and I think you are amazing now.’ She smiled, finished her tea and stood to leave.
Give me a big hug and kiss beautiful girl, Mabel said softly. I want one too, said Gertrude. And with care, poise and love, Kimberly kissed and hugged them both.
I might never get this book written Gertrude, said Mabel, tears glistening in her eyes. Gertrude thought her heart would burst. Love, she thought, is as alive as we are, as different as every living thing and every piece of art or gown or greeting card. Love happened, didn’t ever stay the same, and existed whenever you realized that you were special.
She opened her mouth and said to Mabel, Your story has to be about experiences of love and how you can’t hold them; you need to enjoy them and let them go.
Mabel looked back at her friend, shaking her head and then her finger in Gertrude’s direction. Girlfriend, you are just confusing me. I will never get this story written.
They smiled and reached out to hold hands as they finished their tea.