First and foremost, Happy Anniversary to Real Life Romance hero. Not our wedding anniversary, which is a different date, but the anniversary of the day we fell in love. We are mushy enough to remember the exact day (having it happen on a national holiday probably helped) and mark the occasion. I will not give the number of years, but I can say it was in another century, in a far off land called Santa Barbara. We were two college students, majoring in things that have nothing to do with what either of us are doing for work at present. Go figure.
This year, we marked the occasion with lunch at home, dragged out of the freezer and microwaved, because it’s the day before grocery day, and we both had stuff to do. Also because one of us cut the amount of bread in the household down to one slice while the other was off doing laundry. In a completely unrelated piece of news, a grilled peanut butter sandwich is apparently delicious but super melty to the point of liquefied peanut butter. I will not say which of us did what, because a good marriage always has some secrets, but it did end up with us dipping things in Malibu sauce (1/2 mustard, 1/2 mayonnaise, whisk together; excellent on chicken) at the kitchen counter and discussing what we thought life was going to be like cough cough years ago.
College majors, once of crucial importance, turned out not to be so much, in the end, for us. RLRH is now in the restaurant industry, and I make up stories, blabber about books, and tell people who kissed on TV. Living in NY state? We’d hoped. Now we’re doing it, in a beautiful apartment in a wonderful neighborhood we never want to leave. We share that apartment with Housemate, who knows all our dirty laundry and loves us anyway (or none of us can afford the blackmail; that’s also a plausible explanation.) Though I studied early childhood education, I did not take the degree, nor have I worked in that field since my last nannying gig in college. A few years in retail, many more in family caregiving, but the writing has always been there, even during the dark years when not much was actually coming. I did not expect those years.
RLRH and I went over a few things we would have never expected, if Present Us had been able to talk to Cough Cough Years Ago Us. Health issues, financial crises, deaths of parents and other loved ones, watching friends become parents, career derailments and changes of direction, changes of interests, the eclectic bunch of friends we’ve accumulated, a kitty who does not climb, jump or cuddle (but she does blog, so that makes up for a lot,) and other things we never would have thought of. We’d cut out on a school activity (not a class) that day, long ago, and threw off the person who’d gone out to look for us, because those two people on the athletic field looked like us, but he and I were not a couple, so that couldn’t have been, person kept on looking. We eventually returned to the event, knowing, from the time we’d spent soaking in the other’s company, that something was different, and always would be.
I’ve always known romance was my writing home. That was true back then, and it’s even more true now, maybe because I’ve lived the ups and downs of what life has to offer, with RLRH at my side. A lot of romances are courtship stories, maybe even the majority, and that’s fine. Falling in love is romantic, that’s for sure. Everything is new and shiny and overwhelming, and nothing has been like this before, and maybe, maybe…. RLRH and I threw around a lot of “did you ever think we’d…” questions to each other. Some were answered with “yes,” some with “no,” some with incredulous laughter, and, my favorite, a soft “I’d hoped,” from him.
That’s the other level of romance, and one I like to include in my books whenever possible. A lot of the current romances take place over a short period of time, so focusing on the courtship makes sense. That other level, though, the love that has been tried, broken, mended, grown stronger, as broken bones do, that’s also worth celebrating. Those stories also need to be told. That’s one of the reasons I’m studying some of the older historical romances these days, the ones with a bigger scope and taking place over a longer period of time. For me, the very best historical romances, the ones that linger with me years and decades later, are epics. Sagas. Romances worthy of historic record. Those make my blood sing, so that’s where my focus is going these days.
I once described an early work, which I still find satisfactory these many years later, as feeling like I was dancing in a room that was too small. That’s the best way I can put it, even now. I had a sense of restraint then, a keen concern about what I was “supposed” to do. Levels of historical accuracy (I go for verisimilitude now) and sensuality and which periods are desirable and which are not. Word count is a big bugaboo for me, useful in marketing and editing, but needs to be firmly locked away during the drafting process. I need to tell the story the way I tell the story and then we’ll focus on the form and all that during the next pass through.
Am I where I thought I was going to be all those years ago? Mostly, no. Am I where I need to be? Probably. Am I where I actually am? Most definitely. One of the questions RLRH and I asked each other was, did we think we were going to be this happy? Life isn’t perfect. It’s not ever going to be, and of course we have some what ifs, but we also have each other, and that’s what this happily ever after thing is all about, in life and in fiction. Onward we go….