Bedtime Stories: A Boy and a Girl With Reddish Hair

July 26
Marvaõ, Alto Alentejo, Portugal

Late last night as we tucked the kids away to bed in the little room we are all sharing in an old quinta in the high granite hills of the Upper Alentejo, Oliver asked my husband to tell him a story.  Ryan closed his eyes for a minute before he lay down with our son in the tiny rollaway mattress.  Kendley sensed an opportunity and scrambled across the room, climbed up on to Ryan’s chest, closed her eyes and waited for him to begin.  The lamplight was soft from the corner of the room.  I looked up from the chapter in the guidebook I was reading and listened.

“Once upon a time, there was a little boy who worked very hard to make everyone he met happy.  You could almost always find him outside where he played soccer and basketball day after day; he loved camping in the summers and spending time with his sister, brother and his parents.  As he got older, he went far away to college and his life began to get more difficult.  He got a job eventually and knew to work very hard, but everything he did seemed to go terribly wrong.  He lived in many big cities, one after the next, and everything he did was very, very fast and he never was able to stop and be still.  He was always tired and afraid, and after a while, his heart began to grow ill.

But then one day he met a girl with reddish hair and a wild way to her and he fell in love with her right from the beginning.  But his life was still moving very fast and was going out of control very quickly.”

“Like a racecar, Dad? It was really scary?”

“Yes, yes. It was just like that.  But do you know what?  Something incredible happened.  That boy, who’s now all grown up in this story, and that girl with the reddish hair, they both got a very, very special gift.”

“A water gun? An Angry Birds game? A…”

“No, no, no.  Even better.  They had a baby.  A baby boy.  They became a mommy and daddy, just like that.  And it changed everything, forever. Everything they loved about each other was poured into this baby boy, things they didn’t even know before about each other.  And they realized that this little family that they had made was so important and so wonderful that they wanted to go on a great adventure, all together.

So they did.  They went across the world to countries they had only seen before in pictures and they met people whose languages they couldn’t speak, but when their little boy smiled and laughed, everyone from all those places all over the world realized everything they would ever need to know about that little family.

But then another amazing thing happened to this grown-up boy and girl with reddish hair.  They got another present…a baby girl! And that family, well, things got better and better for them, and they realized that their adventures were only just beginning.”

“So that grown-up boy…he got his life back?” A gleam shone in Oliver’s eyes.  He was on to it now.

“He got everything, Oliver. More than he ever dreamed.  He learned how to be like a little boy again, he learned how to play and not to be afraid.  He even learned how to be still some of the time and to just listen to the world around him. For you see, his heart was free to live within his little family, in his little babies that he loved so much, and especially within that girl with the reddish hair.”

The tinkling of bells from the small flock of sheep in the pasture outside our window mingled with the night breeze and settled among the folds in the curtains.  Oliver closed his eyes and put his head alongside Ryan’s.  The baby was already soundly snoring and sprawled down the length of his torso.  It was midnight, and thus began the first hour of our five year wedding anniversary.  It marked a day we both could recall with only the fondest of memories. But in honest truth, that story – our story – began in such a way a long time ago.


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