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Spirituality ... Love and Marriage

The Enchanted Cottage: Late Life Love Story for Valentine’s Day

by Carol Denker, Autumn Romance

In all the fairy tales, the heroine is young—usually very young—and the hero she falls in love with is just about to conquer his first dragon.

But the most moving love stories I know of are the ones whose heroes and heroines are no younger young, who embrace each other with enlarged, mature souls as they take the rest of the journey together.
Let me tell you about the first time I glimpsed this phenomenon. It was the very first interview for my book about late-life romance.

In a senior center in Philadelphia, Bob and Sue Serra sat opposite me, all of us in folding chairs. They had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. I could tell that Sue, now 80, used to be a willowy beauty. I was impressed by the kindness of Bob’s brown eyes and his boyish energy at 79. But mostly I was impressed with the tender affection they showered upon each other.

Bob gazed at Sue, his eyes soft with love, as she described her long first marriage to a gambler. Bob stroked her arm over and over as Sue told how she never had children, how her husband gambled away their business, their savings, their home. Sue’s voice trembled. Bob took her into his arms, softly rocked her, murmuring, “You are so beautiful.”

Then Bob described his first marriage, to a nervous woman unable to sustain any intimacy, working two jobs to pay for her many hospitalizations. Sue clasped both his hands and made little sounds of sympathy. “Bob, you are so good, such a good man.”

Then Bob got up to do an errand and Sue leaned forward, the better to ask me a question.

“Did you ever see the movie “The Enchanted Cottage,” she asked.

Yes, I told her. “The Enchanted Cottage” is one of my favorites, a 1940s film about a disfigured soldier and a homely girl who marry. They honeymoon in a cottage they believe to be magic, because each loses all physical imperfections after they have lived there a while.

The newlyweds insist on presenting their newly beautiful selves to the outside world. Then the movie takes a surprising turn when the camera shows that they are in fact unchanged; they look exactly as before. It is to each other that they have become beautiful! Love, we see, is the enchanted cottage.

Sue’s blue eyes glowed. “That’s us! That’s us!”

“I’m old,” she confided matter-of-factly. “I don’t even like to have my picture taken any more. But when we’re together, we forget! We hug, we kiss, we laugh. Inside our house, it’s like time was never born.”
It’s like time was never born. I sat on my folding chair—the setting couldn’t have been more ordinary!—and with tears in my eyes, rejoiced to be witnessing such an extraordinary human experience.

What I learned later just added to the story.

A few months after their wedding, Sue had been hit by a careless taxi driver. She suffered from increasing hip pain and dizziness. How unfair, I thought, after they’d discovered each other and had so few years left!
But in subsequent visits, I saw how Bob expressed his love by caring extravagantly for Sue instead of falling prey to self-pity. Experiencing such devotion, Sue became an intensely affectionate woman, which she didn’t used to be. Their life expanded. Sue sang solos in their choir with Bob’s encouragement. Bob convinced Sue to go on trips. But even their outings to the senior center felt like adventures because they were so happy.

“The Enchanted Cottage” would have been a fantasy if the couple were in fact physically altered by the cottage. The real miracle is how powerful love is, how it transforms hearts and transcends time.

About the Author: Carol Denker is the author of Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50. www.autumnlove.org. It makes a perfect Valentine's gift for so many as the stories are filled with hope and inspiration. You can purchase Carol's book via this link: Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50.

Wise and Wonderful

Sarah Collins The Little Guide to Big Changes Wellness Care Today Visualize a flower becoming a bud, and then slowly growing into the beautiful flower it is meant to become. This is a great metaphor of the journey of life. Just as a flower reaches its peak of beauty at full maturity, the senior years […]

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