Looking back to her childhood and teenage years, she thinks she probably read too many fairytales; she remembers believing they could come true.
As a precocious child she read many stories, from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty and from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to The Little Mermaid; as a teenager she thrived on romantic stories which most of the times had happy endings, and when they did not, such as The Little Mermaid or, later, one of her favourite stories, Wuthering Heights, or even the more dramatic Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Iseult, still she believed it must have all been worthwhile, just for the privilege of living a passionate, truly great love story.
For many years the exotic, impossibly unreal romance between Tarzan and Jane in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books remained as one of her favourites, showing how true love conquered all, bridging huge gaps such as opposite upbringings and different outlooks on life.
Great historical novels such as Ivanhoe and Quo Vadis transported her to other times, other places, but they inevitably left her dreaming about a beautiful heroine overcoming all obstacles and finally resting her head on the shoulder of her handsome, tall, athletic beau, and then also unfailingly came the most desired expression of all “and they lived happily ever after”.
Now this was the most dangerous part of all, for it was so easy, so sweet to believe it was true.
Even if around her reality showed that romantic relationships were not exactly like those she read about – her parents were clearly unhappy and eventually separated and divorced, and most of the married couples she knew, who were supposed to be “living happily ever after”, did not really look as if they were really living in a blissful state – she truly believed it might be different for her and from her early teens she was on a quest for her “knight in shining armour”, a love such as those she read about, that would sweep her off her feet and make her dreams come true. They would one day marry and live a long, happy life together.
She fell in love. At first, in her early teens, she loved from afar, living great romances in her head with boys that didn’t even notice her, and she cried and feared love would always elude her; then, her time as an “ugly duckling” a thing of the past, she fell in love and was loved back, and had moments of exhilaration and heartbreak too; she lived beautiful love stories and there were boys, and then men who loved her deeply, and there were many happy and passionate moments in her life; some relationships were brief, some lasted for years. And then she thought she had found the love of the life, and they married and had a happy time together, but there were two many diferences between them that slowly, very slowly became unsurpassable; harsh reality dawned on her and she had to accept – however grudgingly – that to this story there would be no “happily ever after”, that her long time dream of spending a lifetime with her love would never be.
Love came to her life once more and it seemed as if there was still hope for the fairytale ending but in the end life has a way of showing us that dreams are no more than that – beautiful images we build in our heads about something we wish would be real, but in fact never is, nor will it ever be.
So, she asks herself, should we banish fairy tales? Should we not allow ourselves to dream of an ideal world where love and passion will last forever? Should we teach our children to simply accept the dreary grey reality that the lives of most passionate lovers eventually become? Should dreams have no place in our lives?
She doesn’t think so. Even if the stories that make us dream are misleading, they give us a world of fantasy and magic and these are badly needed in the often uninteresting world we live in. After all, she does know one or two love stories that have gone on for many years just like in the books, and these lucky, privileged couples have lived happily together until their old age. So why not believe that, even if rare, it is possible?
Looking back to most of her life she does not regret a single dream she has had, a single love she has believed in for they have made her life worthwhile. Even if they have turned out to be disappointing. And she will go on reading beautiful love stories and dreaming they may sometimes come true even if in the end she will have to face the bitter truth that life is no fairytale.