Her64 Pontiac

1964 Pontiac Parisienne

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Cinderella drives a blue 1964 Pontiac Parisienne convertible.

I didn’t know that, back when happily ever after was as easy as a kiss and a hug to mend some broken skin. Now I’ve learned that hearts do not mend as tidily as scraped knees and that Cinderella really does exist.  She is reborn in all women in that eternal instant of air losing oxygen and hearts tripping rhythm.  In one soul-filling, world-changing intake of breath, which simultaneously calms us with peaceful clarity, yet physically shakes us as the stars realign in celebration of the love we have found, her story begins once again. It is in that pinprick of time when we look in his eyes and lose the earth under our feet that all of us are fated to learn how it really ends.  I used to worry for Cinderella because the endings are incalculable and rarely do they start with happily ever after.

The first time I met Wolf and Carolyn, they were returning my two year old daughter’s ‘Houdini’ pony after his latest great escape. ‘Mr. Right’ and I had just moved into the rural neighbourhood he had grown up in and into the house I believed I would grow old in. Grandma was a five minute drive up the dirt road and available for babysitting anytime. Perfect. Wolf and Carolyn were our new neighbours with teenage boys. “Nice people,” was all I thought. Isn’t it funny how we don’t recognize our teachers when they first appear?

Over the next few years my family grew and Carolyn and Wolf’s emptied. We were given their trampoline when their, ‘old enough to know better’ boys, were caught jumping onto it from their roof. We went for adventurous horse rides and had friendly poker nights. My daughter started school and every morning as I walked her up the road to the bus stop, we waved to Carolyn as she drove by on her way to work in her rebuilt ’64 convertible, top down, hair in a bandana, proud and happy. It wasn’t until long after we’d moved into Grandma’s house that I learned the importance of that car and it’s owners.

Grandma had died, literally and figuratively, of a broken heart. Not one of Cinderella’s happiest endings and one of my first inklings that the lost slipper isn’t always returned by the right Prince Charming. Reluctantly, I said goodbye to my dream cottage to become the mistress of a comparative mansion, the house that had been my husband’s childhood home as well as the tragic site of love lost.

We settled into our new corner of the neighbourhood and lost touch with the old neighbours. Life went on as it always does. The birth of my son completed our perfect family and then, in a flip of the page, both my children were in school and I was deciding who I wanted to be at the end of this story. I was looking for the part in the movies when music starts playing and you know all the things that follow will be perfectly fine. Everything always works out the way it is supposed to at the end, right? I was a wife and a mother and yes, grateful for my life, but did those things define me? Was that the essence of me? I needed to know what it takes to stay married, to give someone your heart and not lose yourself in the process. As I searched for my individuality from all the other Cinderella’s out there, my marriage fell into dark times and I found myself wading through a mythical world of fairy tale love searching for truths..until I spotted that blue Pontiac parked at the local ‘everything and more’ store.

Wolf and Carolyn were starting a cross Canada trip in the car they’d had their first date in, the car they had renewed their wedding vows in at a drive-thru chapel in Vegas, the car which had pumpkined in the garage waiting patiently for the loving touch that would restore it. Wolf had terminal lung cancer and 3 months to live. They wanted one last cabriolet ride together.

This was when I began to recognize the lessons being offered up, but I had yet to learn them. We can understand a thing without truly knowing it, and knowing a thing comes only from experiencing it.

I remembered my Dad talking to me about the difference between ‘falling in love’ and ‘living in love’. It had seemed a cynical thought when I was in the throes of newlywedism, to talk about or even ponder a time when that feeling might fade away. Now I felt I was holding onto a poisoned apple – shiny and beautiful on the outside; bitter and rotting under the surface.

An unexpected rift in my story had ripped our perfect world. It was the classic ‘evil step sister’ moment and the details are probably interchangeable with a million other stories. We tried to carry on but when one of us reached out, the other pulled away and then we’d reverse roles. Love that was once free and easy was now suffocating. Counseling provided enough short term relief to recall the ‘once upon a time’ parts that seemed a thousand years ago, but we still needed to heal, to tape the pages back together, and the glue was fading fast.

I also remembered someone telling me in the beginning to keep my girl friends close, no matter how great the guy was, because those were the relationships that would keep you strong in the tough times. Your girl friends would be the ones who’d throw you a rope to hold on to when the world had once again been ripped out from under you, and, sure enough, my friends were there to listen to my tears.  They provided the lacking support, but I needed to rebuild and I wasn’t sure how to do that without tearing everything down first. I began looking outside my own blurred life.

I consoled friends who lost their perfect endings to drugs, or adultery, or cruel diseases that took Prince Charming from their story. I studied couples who had ‘made it’ and ones that hadn’t. I discovered that Prince Charming and Mr. Right are not always the same person. I cheered on friends who were feasting on fresh love. As with all things, I learned and healed by focusing on helping others rather than myself.

When my ‘teachers’ returned from their travels, I spent some time with Wolf, listening to his musings on life, his love for Carolyn, and their journeys in the car. Through their stories, I began to uncover simple truths about love. Love is not perfect; it requires patience. Love continues for as long as you are open to receiving it. Love means laughing…a lot. Love means allowing time for forgiveness and saying, “I’m sorry”, (even when you know you’re right).  Most importantly, love means letting go. The harder we hold onto something that needs to be free, the harder it struggles to survive; and so I let go.

My heart was broken.  The pain was like breathing spinning wheel needles, but what I discovered next surprised me. Hearts, as brittle and helpless as they are against the drive to search for that magical slice of time when real life becomes the fairy tale, are equally as capable of withstanding whatever that moment of vulnerability sets up for us.


The spark of time that weakens our knees is the same event that can destroy us or make us stronger, depending upon our perception and our reactions. We control the story no matter what the author has in store. In fact, the ending becomes irrelevant when we learn that happily ever after never did depend on Prince Charming or Mr. Right, but ultimately, on our willingness to create our own stories.

During the days when my relationship did not feel worth the heartache, I found strength from many sources, not least of which was the real life story of Wolf and Carolyn. They unwittingly taught me to create happily ever after at every turn of the page and ride it like a white horse through the mess we invariably find ourselves in, they taught me that faith and love can defy the greatest odds, and they taught me to believe in the future when the past comes back to haunt us.

Wolf is now 2 years past his predicted expiration date and planning a trip to Sweden with his princess, Carolyn. They may leave the car in the garage this time and take a plane across the ocean.


I still love to watch people moving through all the seasons of love and I am seeking inspiration. Whether the battle be won or lost, the real life tale never ends. As for my own story, an unexpected plot twist gave my marriage a new chapter, ending unwritten, and I no longer worry about Cinderella.

I see her on her way to fitness class in perky outfits or tossed-on sweatpants seeking to attract a new beginning. I see her lost in loving bliss as she strolls with a baby carriage through the park.  I see her baking pies or making shrewd business deals. And yes, I still see one Cinderella with the wind whipping rockin’ tunes and loose strands of hair past her wizened face as she drives her blue ’64 Parisienne through the dusty country roads. I know in my heart that she will be just fine, because true love stories are not defined by their beginnings or endings but by all the happily ever after moments created in between,  Written by Kathleen Wright – Spring 2010     November 2010

– Update to the story.  We did travel to Sweden to see our second son marry his Swedish Sweetheart in  August and Wolf is still fighting a battle with cancer.  One day at a time.

Continue on down the page for the full story of  our sundeck on wheels and all the fun that we are having!!

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