My parents met much like a scene out of a movie.
At 19 and 20 years old, they met while my dad was working at their college’s dining hall. Actually, they met after my mom — who was too busy staring at my dad to move forward in the food line — almost spilled her tray of food and my dad rushed over to help her clean it up.
That was in 1987. Today, my parents celebrate 27 years of marriage. From the outside, their 27 years tell a story of nearly the same fairytale-quality of their meeting: there has been hardship and fighting but there has also always been redemption and joy.
And yet, any relationship is much more than the highs and lows that are visible from the outside. The sweetest times are often the quietest — the moments of monotony that together, make up a lifetime.
Their lives, and mine. Bound together not with scenes out of movies, as sweet as they are, but with days that string together into years, into life. Ours.
I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. So, it was with a fair amount of disappointment that I realized in middle school that my parents were not romantic. Not in front of me, at least.
Oh, they sometimes held hands. There were plenty of “I love you’s” at night, and always Valentine’s Day cards. But compared to the other (usually younger) parents who I watched casually kiss each other upon reuniting or share a seat at a party, I began to feel my parents were, well, boring.
Where was the type of love evident in that story, shared so many times, of their meeting?
As most children do, I one day realized that (surprise surprise) I did not see or know all of my parent’s relationship. That their relationship extended beyond just being my parents.
Perhaps as other children react when learning the world doesn’t revolve around them, I remember feeling cheated. I wanted so much to know them, to be the force holding them together. Of course, I wasn’t so self-aware as a seventh grader. I didn’t know why I was both embarrassed and, in some ways, jealous of my parents, I just was.
I wanted to know them.
As I got older, I discovered that in many ways, I already did.
Through small moments: Mom making chili for dad, despite never having a taste for it. Dad making us spaghetti for dinner on the nights when, we didn’t notice, but Mom was completely worn out from the work she did day-in and day-out, on and off the clock. The fits of laughter while remembering a college story, the conversations over the watching of TV at night.
Bigger moments too. The decisions made of how and where to spend their money — decisions that seemed random, sometimes unfair to me, but I now know came from hours of deliberation and planning, often immensely stressful, sometimes sacrificial. Reconciliation after disagreements. Companionship through the loss of those loved.
I would never, and will never see all of their moments. But I’ve seen enough. Enough to know that while they may not be picturesque romantics, their love is true. What else could a person hope for?
As someone who has been single for most of my life, it’s sometimes difficult for me to relate to my parent’s story — two people who found each other very young, and have loved each other well.
But what I am particularly grateful for about my parent’s story is for what it has taught me about Love. That, while theirs is certainly a romantic love, it is not constrained by the limitations of fleeting attraction, or even affection. Theirs is not merely a feeling, but a promise.
Ultimately reflecting the picture of Christ’s love for his church, my parent’s marriage is founded on something stronger than cheesy scenes out of movies. Even from a secular standpoint, love based on more than fleeting feelings is attractive.
Not only because it offers some permanence in a world constantly changing. But also because it offers hope to those without romantic love: hope that Love is not only for those who meet in crowded dining halls and only have eyes for each other.
Their love points to a greater love. One I may one day uniquely experience as they do, but can and will experience in many ways and moments until then.
One of those ways, in being their daughter.