Every week, when my little neighbors come for their visit, they always ask me to tell them a story. They don’t want it to be a story they already know. It has to be one I make up on the spot. This old brain doesn’t think as quickly as it used to, and it’s tough to come up with a new story “thinking on my feet,” as it were. (I’m expected to tell my story standing up so I can act it out as I go along.) Though I don’t know how my story will begin, I always know how it will finish: with a happy ending.
When I was growing up, I always had my head in a book. I ready every Louisa May Alcott book I could get my hands on and all the Nancy Drew mysteries. In fact, when we would go to Ohio in the summer to visit my grandparents and cousins, my cousin Cheryl and I traded our Nancy Drew books with each other to make sure we didn’t miss one. We were kind of sad when there weren’t any left that we hadn’t already read.
The most important prerequisites of the books I liked to read were that they had to have a hero or heroine that I would like as a friend, and they had to have a happy ending. Those two things were easy to come by in children’s books, especially back then. It wasn’t that everything in the story had to be wonderful. That would have been boring. Stories have to have conflict. I was devastated when Beth died in Little Women. I cried openly about it. But at the end, everything worked out wonderfully. Today’s children’s stories still follow the same path, for the most part, but sometimes they seem darker.
I haven’t outgrown my desire for happy endings, although if the ending isn’t actually happy but is satisfying, I’m usually okay with it. But just okay. I’d rather have happy any day. In fact, when I go to the movies, if I’ve heard that a certain film doesn’t have a happy ending, I stay away from it. I go to movies to escape. I don’t need another dose of real life. I want to come out smiling. My brother is the same way. Once, when we were watching a rented movie at my house, it looked like its ending couldn’t possibly turn out well for the main character. Since we loved the movie up to that point, we were both bracing for a less-than-satisfying ending, wishing we hadn’t invested our time and emotions into a movie that would leave us feeling sad. But then it had a twist at the end, a wonderful twist that left everything better than we could have imagined, everything we could have hoped for. We loved it!
I can’t control everything that happens in my life. Life is full of sorrows as well as joys. However, I can control what I read and watch, and give me a book with complications, twists and turns, even a little bit of tragedy, but when I finish the last page, I want to be smiling. I just finished a terrific book, In Memory of Running by Ron McLarty that did just that.