Three Day Quote Challenge: Family Happiness

An explanation of the challenge is here. I’m squeaking in under the wire on day three; it’s been a busy one. (As a result I’m posting from my iPad app, so please excuse any extra wonkiness).

Today’s quote is from the end of a book I read years ago, Laurie Colwin’s Family Happiness, and I chose it just because this sentence has stayed in my memory for two decades or so. Polly and her children are flying a kite:

The dragon had been made so that it would swoop, and when it did, Polly felt her heart break open to love and pain, and to the complexity of things.

I’d forgotten the dragon part, actually, but what a lovely image, the swoop both exciting and terrifying–a fall, or a dive?–mirroring the way love and pain are, inevitably mixed.

I’ve written a bit about this line, and this book, before. When I first read it, I was fairly newly married, and still learning about “the complexity of things,” learning to accept the inevitable companionship, some of the time, of love and pain.

This line is an example of one of the things I think literature is “for”: it takes a cliche or a truism (you have to be vulnerable and risk being hurt to experience love) and brings it back to life by making it concrete, specific. There’s nothing original about the idea expressed here, but it spoke to me because I had travelled with Polly on her individual path to this moment of revelation. And maybe, I’m thinking now, it spoke to me because of that dragon kite, concrete and specific, which I had forgotten, but which pinned the abstract idea in my memory.

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