I get home today after a big museum escapade to find Pietro and Maria playing cards at the kitchen table. This spurs to Pietro to tell me the story of how they met. He was at a ski chalet with friends, and Maria showed up with a mutual friend… and her then husband.
“But I feel something,” Pietro says. “So, there are these tarot cards. I say, ‘I can read these cards very well!’” He laughs. “But I cannot read these cards.”
Maria is shaking her head and laughing, too. “He cannot,” she emphasizes.
Pietro continues. “So I tell her: you will leave your husband. You will meet a man… you will be very happy.”
“I was not very happy with my husband,” Maria interjects, just to set the record straight.
“And… she does,” Pietro says. “So many men, first they have this wife and then they have that wife. For me, there was only her.”
That was 37 years ago. Then they tell me that they didn’t actually get married until their son was 16.
“He wanted us to get married,” Maria says. “He was scared.”
They had a big party at the restaurant they owned, and then went to Tunisia for a week to celebrate.
“We forget what day, every year,” she says, and shrugs. “It doesn’t matter.”
It’s like watching those intermission clips in When Harry Met Sally, only in real life, in Tuscany, over the most amazing noodle soup I’ve ever had.
Maybe it’s being in Italy, but I have been thinking a lot about love. About the plans we make, and the stories we end up with. About the many, many ways we try to protect ourselves from getting hurt, and how no matter what, it happens anyway. Morgan asked me, the other day, about how old I was when I got married. When I told her 32, she looked deflated.
“I thought if you got married in your thirties, you were past the point of mucking it up,” she said.
A meditation teacher I know said that our definition of love is far too narrow. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but now, I think I’m starting to. We try to paint love into these little boxes. Wife. Husband. Partner. Parent. Child. Family. Friend.
We’re told, generally, what love is supposed to look like. When we don’t get that, we feel, sometimes, as though we’ve failed.
But I wonder if there are other kinds of love that are just as precious, if only we gave them the same airtime.
Like the deep, unshakable friendships we have with people who may as well be family, even if they live very far away.
Like our mentors, who guide us and advise us because they know firsthand the value of wisdom and experience, and they want to pay it forward. I owe my sanity to people like this.
Like lovers who cannot be partners, or partners who cannot be lovers.
And like people we meet in distant lands, who may not be our age or speak our language, but who carve out their own, irreplaceable spots in our hearts, never to be forgotten.
Can many unorthodox forms of love add up to the equivalent of the full picture? What is the full picture, anyway? I still hope, one day, to have what Maria and Pietro have. But that’s because it’s big and whole and true. And the space I’m making now for these new and unseemly forms of love, rather than trying to squish them into boxes, is creating something that’s pretty big and whole and true, too.
I wonder if our boxes are too box-like. If they’re making us less happy, rather than more. If we opened up our definition and our stories about love, would we be just as happy as Maria and Pietro are now? And maybe, as a byproduct, would we make a whole bunch of people around us happier, too?