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Prince Charming

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(An online friend of mine who writes a feature column in the local newspaper is doing a special on love stories to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I was delighted when he asked me to contribute a few paragraphs about my romance with Paul.  I thought I’d post my contribution here, too.  If you’d like, use the comments to share what you love best about your Valentine!)

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He wasn’t wearing armor or waving a banner, and his lemon yellow Oldsmobile Omega was about as far from a noble steed as you could get, so when my white knight showed up one unassuming August day in the hallowed halls of Harding University, I very nearly missed him.

Like so many single girls, I’d spent years dreaming up my own vision of Prince Charming—some impossible combination of Antonio Banderas and Atticus Finch, gorgeous and intelligent and whimsical and high-minded and mysterious and transparent and powerful and gentle and confident and humble and…and, and, and. In short, he was the perfect man.

Thankfully, he was entirely fictional. Had I ever actually met him, I’m quite certain he would have driven me crazy.

Instead, I found Paul. Or he found me. It was sort of a mutual finding, taking shape over long afternoon walks and dollar menu dates. And in the years since, my picture of Prince Charming has been gloriously remade in the image of the wonderful, stumbling, passionate, funny, amazing man that I married. He snores. He tells the same jokes over and over. He forgets to write things down in the checkbook. He gets cranky when he hasn’t eaten in a while. And when I am lying buried under a heap of worries and frustrations, he is the one who puts a strong shoulder under the pile and helps me carry it along. From his willingness to take on the tasks that I hate (like dealing with the phone company) to the spontaneous backrubs he gives when he can tell I’ve had a crazy day, everything Paul does sends the message: “We’re in this together, babe.”

Together, we specialize in laughter and finishing each other’s sentences. We play Scrabble ferociously. We fight and make up in almost the same breath, because pouting wastes precious time that would be much better spent discussing who would win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman. We go out a lot, but we’re secret homebodies, thankful when weather or cancellation or even sickness throws our plans to the wind and gifts us with a sweet night curled up on the couch in front of a movie.

“I married my best friend.” It’s inscribed on countless greeting cards and wedding invitations. It’s also written on the map of my life, the turning in the road that completely and forever changed my story. In this land, hand in hand with a real, live Prince, a two-bedroom apartment is a palace, a mud-splattered Ford Escort is a royal coach, and a Wendy’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger is a feast.

I defy even Antonio Banderas to create that kind of magic.