Title: This is How it Always Is
Author: Laurie Frankel
Date Read: July 16, 2022
Two Sprited Snaps!!
This is how it is: a brilliant fairy tale of the unpreictable, messy, complicated, joyous journey of parenthood and family.
Once upon a time there was Penn, a doggedly-determined and haplessly romantic writer, who willingly sits in the hospital waiting room where Rosie is doing her residency to disabuse her of the idea that a medical student has no time for a boyfriend. “Her shift was twenty-eight hours, Penn sat and wrote for every one of them. They took a coffee and breakfast break together toward dawn. Penn tried every flavor of corn chip in the vending machine.” (p.20). They do fall in love, and marry, and start a family, adding four rambunctious boys to their Wisconsin farmhouse. But Rosie can’t help but want one more try: for a girl.
Claude, their fifth child, it turns out, is not a girl: despite applying a myriad of old-wives tales to her furniture arrangement, eating habits and choice of sexual positions. But Claude is very much unlike his rough-and-tumble brothers: he wants to grow up and be a princess, he wants to wear fairy wings and have his hair long.
Penn continues to weave fairy tales: his boys pick up the adventures of Grumwald (the hero-prince of the bedtime stories first told in the emergency room) — and they help all of them to see themselves for who they truly are. “Bedtime stories were a group activity. And because showing the pictures all around to everyone involved a great deal of squirming and shoving and pinching and pushing and get-outta-my-ways and he-farted-on-mes and you-got-to-look-longer-than-I-dids, Penn often resorted to telling stories rather than reading them. He had a magic book he read from. It was an empty spiral notebook. He showed the boys it was blank so that there was no clamoring to see. And then he read it ot them. Like magic” (p.28).
And sometimes, thoughtful, complicated fairy-tales that buck the Disneyfied arc are exactly the princess stories we need to hear.
“You find out you’re not alone. And so does everyone else. That’s how everything gets better. You share your secret, and I’ll do the rest. You share your secret, and you change the world.”
“It’s not that easy,” Grumwald felt his lungs stiching to become one in his chest. “I can’t just share my secret. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to understand. It’s complicated.
“Of course it is. It’s life.”
“So how do I do it then? How do I share my secret? What do I tell?”
“Your story.” The witch didn’t even hesitate. “You tell your story. That is what we all must do.”
“That’s not magic,” said Grumwald.
“Of course it is,” said the witch. “Story is the best magic there is.”