This one's dedicated to The One I married and loved for the last 23 years and hope I can continue to do so until we're both really old and wrinkled. A mushy love story if anyone intends to see it that way.
Someone wrote that there was a philosopher who built a bird-house and called it "Insight". When asked why he called it thus, he replied, "Insight is for the Birds". I don't mind being a bird though. I'm always in the habit of sitting back, thinking and reviewing my life.
When I was young and idealistic I dreamed that I would only get married when I found someone I love. As time went by I stopped believing in love after failing in many attempts to find it. I mean the kind of love that
I was trying to find someone who could share my interests, has character and good family background. Tall order indeed. But then, those girls who I thought were good enough for me didn't think I was good enough for them. And those who thought the world of me, I found them lacking in the things I imagined my ideal wife should be. After several blunders and failures and making a complete idiot of myself, I gave myself a break. But I never gave up my ideals.
Then I became reckless. I decided to stop playing by the rules (whatever they were). There was one girl who I got to know just casually while on the way to work each day. After dating her a few times, I asked her if she would like to make a long term commitment. (It sounded like a business deal.) She didn't give me a yes or no answer. So I waited. But I didn't wait around too long. I met the girl who is now my wife. She didn't want to know how poor I was. She knew I wasn't rich. She didn't lay down any condition or criteria. She accepted me as I was. We never had any pretenses. Unfortunately, she was also pretty shy. We were working in the same factory. There were some jealous and sacarstic words thrown around but she weathered all that without a word about it to me.
When the other girl came around to it, she found out she was too late. I wasn't available anymore. I felt sorry for her but I'd already made my choice. You just can’t drop someone who was ready to accept you without conditions.
The chemistry between us, you couldn’t call it love just yet. We started off with what I’d call mutual acceptance. I found out later that there were a few suitors before me. There were those who tried to get her friends to introduce them and there were those who sent match-makers to see her mother. One was from quite a well off family while another owned a repair shop in town. She just wasn’t ready to settle down. There were also some 'not-so-honourable' mentions. The guys who wolf-whistled her whenever she passed by the coffee shop by the main road leading to her house. I'm not saying she was such a ravishing beauty, but there's something about her like a jewel that you'd want to preserve and protect. I guess I just got lucky and came at the right time. She later told me her mother couldn't decide about me after the match-maker friend of hers made a representation on my behalf. She went to a temple to pray and came away with a “chiam-si” (=Hokkien for note with her fortune written on it) that said she was about to be sprinkled with some gold dust. (Ahem)
I didn't believe fairy tales ever happened in real life. At least, not the ones that ended 'happily ever after'. When the music fades away, that's when real life begins. There are the bills to pay, jobs we have to go to everyday and the little unsavory habits and mannerisms in each other we've never seen while we're still dating. Then there are the in-laws and relatives from either side with their worldly wisdoms and unsolicited opinions we'd never heard before. For most of us, before we could get used to all these, there's the baby to feed and change of diapers in the middle of the night.
We started our life together without the frills of an eight course dinner, noisy band show and boring speeches by some Datuk that everyone else had, to proudly proclaim to half the town's population that they're married, other than the essential tea-ceremony in which all my older relatives were introduced to her at one go. Most of these faces she'd already forgotten by the time we came back from our honeymoon.
Now, in spite of our ability to afford most of the luxuries we dreamed of, she still saves and recycles whatever worth the effort. Aluminium cans, newspapers, card-board cartons and sometimes scrap metal are stacked in one corner of our front porch for sale to a regular collector. Water from the washing machine goes to mopping floors, watering plants and flushing toilets. Our meals seldom have left-overs. Also because we're not picky eaters, even the neighbors' excesses generously found their way to our dinning table. Our constant battle with our waistlines attest to that. Thats what the evening walks are for. But if ever she found out that the goodies in exchange she passed to the neighbor got thrown out as left-overs, that neighbor can say goodbye to those goodies thereafter.
We are blessed with three girls. But she'd wonder out loud if I ever had any regrets we didn't have boys. I said I'm happy to be called "Charlie" by our neighbor next door. Live is great having three angels around. My mother never got tired of hinting of "trying again", but I'd rather not put her through the agonizing "morning-till-night" sickness and labor pains again. The last girl had her suffering right off from the second month until delivery. She was starving most of the time and was so frail by the time she delivered I'd wonder where the nutrition for the baby came from.
Back to the original subject, of course everybody wants to find someone who's compatible or at least having most things in common. I think I sound old-fashioned, but I believe being old-fashioned is a lot better than seeing things as rosy cozy and then waking up one day to find your “ever after” is not half as happy as you expect it to be. In reality, before love gets in the way and screws up your thought processes and applied rose tints on your glasses, you have to deal with all the factors. You're going to have to face the cold hard facts of life after you've made your choice. You can't just wake up one day after you've lived with someone for some years, have a few kids and then say that you're incompatible and you want out. No. You find some common grounds and develop the rest from there.
As one commercial said there's "no turning back!" We're not without our differences and misunderstandings. We just kept working around those sharp edges and barbs and try to point them away from each other. That reminds me of the wedding ring she gave me. It used to scratch me once in a while when I wasn't careful washing my face. The Chinese inscription on it says, "Everlasting Love". Having worn that for so many years, the sharp edges are now all gone, just like the sharp edges of our personalities that became worn down to prevent us from hurting each other. But the inscription stands out as clearly as ever.
I definitely wouldn’t go back and start it any other way with any other person even if I could.