When Rose meets Theo

This is the sixth day of the Love Blog Challenge
hosted by the lovely
BelleBrita
Prompt for 2/10:
Fictional love.

I grew up in a white suburban neighborhood, very near the lower end of the middle class, attending church on Sunday morning and night and then again on Wednesday for Bible study. To this day, I think of volleyball as the most Christian sport.

My family life was pretty square and conservatively Christian. We had the Big Five: don’t drink, smoke, dance, go to Hollywood movies, or play cards – the ones with the four suits, anyway. (Just FYI, games like Flinch, Old Maid, and Go Fish were just fine. So not a total Friday night loss.)

And, although my memory is not clear about the bigger world, I can say with a measure of certainty that my parents loved and respected people of color – at an unspecified but clear distance. Distant enough that the idea of social or even casual romantic friendships with them was beyond the pale, not making it necessary to turn the Big Five into Six.

When I read Sing for Me, Karen Halvorsen Schreck’s stunning debut novel, the past rushed back.

Despite a beautiful voice made for all kinds of music, Rose grew up singing in the church choir and only in the church choir, avoiding the worldly songs, like Cheek to Cheek and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Not by choice but because she was a good church girl.

The crash of ’29 forced Rose and her family from her fancy suburb to the West Side of Chicago. And for her twenty-first birthday, Rose’s cousin introduced her to the forbidden world of nightclubs and jazz and places that welcome all colors…

…where Rose meets Theo, the mixed band’s African-American piano player.

The rest of the book follows the story of the church girl and the jazz player, as they find love for each other while they dodge and endure the norms and unwritten rules of the Depression Era and the church.

I won’t tell you how their story ends – although I will say that each page kept me reading, right up to the last words. But I can say that each time I read about or see a movie about people like Rose and Theo whose love for each other is both suspect and discouraged because of what is on the outside, my heart breaks a little bit.

We have long lived in a world full of cautionary tales about falling in love with someone different from you on the outside …

  • If you marry someone outside your financial world, the differences can bring misunderstanding and resentment.
  • If you marry someone outside your cultural world, too many important traditions may have to be compromised, watered down, diminished.
  • If you marry someone with different color skin, your family may not understand and your children may be ridiculed.

I am captivated by these stories on screen and in books, about fictional but somehow real people who wish for no more than to love the one who loves them back. Wars are started, swords and guns drawn, harsh and cruel words spoken – all because love is forbidden. And for all the world, I don’t understand why we, as bystanders, feel the need to cause so much trouble about one of the most beautiful mysteries of life.

Fictional love? Real-life love? Some of it frivolous, some fleeting, some strange and wonderful. Some daring, some hum-drum.

Some love seems unlikely and some seems destined since the beginning of time – or at least freshman year.

But whatever the story, I wish it didn’t matter your money or country or color. Not that I think it will change.

But I sure would love it if it did. Maybe we could all enjoy a good game of volleyball.

Author’s note: I feel compelled to say, not in any way a judgement of those different than me, I do understand the concerns when what’s on the inside – faith – is not unified. What we believe involves our souls and our eternity, and it seems risky to marry someone that believes very differently or not at all.

Photo by Shea Rouda on Unsplash

4 comments

  1. Nancy, this is another insightful, lovely, journey with you. Now I need to go check out that book.
    And “And for all the world, I don’t understand why we, as bystanders, feel the need to cause so much trouble about one of the most beautiful mysteries of life.” So, soooo true for me, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mardra, I’m sure you know how comments like this can make the day so bright. I especially love the word “another” – it gives me such a sense of connection with you. Thanks so very much for your kind and consistent support…xoxox

      Like

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