Okay, yes this a post about a puppy… but so much more too.
A couple weeks ago we got a new puppy. “Patchington Bear from Darkest Montana” – yes, that his name. Thank goodness, we only call him “Patch.” And considering that he joins “Triple Grande Non-Fat Extra Foamy Latte” (called “Trip”), his n
ame doesn’t sound so odd. But our whacky dog names must be the subject of another post for another day…
The point is I was against a new puppy. I was the lone voice in the family calling for reason, caution, less mess and much less fur. I was out numbered and out maneuvered. In fact, even my husband joined my side in the eleventh hour and told our middle child, “We’d be crazy to get a puppy right now?” Her reply? “Dad, we are crazy. That’s what makes us great.” Well… Welcome the puppy!
Two weeks later, I’m besotted. There is innocence and unbridled affection bouncing from Patch every second that he isn’t passed out from exhaustion. And this is where we venture beyond an actual puppy.
I LOVE “Puppy Love.” I revel in the innocence of first love, real love and transformative love… no matter the character’s age or previous experience. I savor that first moment that nudges the reader “Pay Attention. This is different.” It can be subtle, should be subtle, but you should feel it – in a look, a glance, a touch, a shrug… (Come on – where’s that quote from?) Your heart skips a beat as you catch on to something beautiful, fleeting and yet coming within reach – the sense that things are changing and this relationship will contradict your expectations of love in our post-modern, highly cynical culture. It is so transformative that it will return our character, and perhaps us, to a moment of innocence.
This may be more easily done in historical romances because the time period and social constraints work in a writer’s favor. We readers suspend our disbelief that “a look, a glance” can communicate all that needs to be spoken or felt. But what about today? Do those of us who read and write contemporary stories get left out of this heart quickening moment, this slow progression of romance? I certainly hope not – because when it occurs in today’s world it’s all the sweeter.
I got explore this a little – just a little – in my novel, Lizzy & Jane, which will release in October. If you’ve read Dear Mr. Knightley, you know my books pull a bit from Austen – I know, that’s a shocking admission. J But I think Jane (writer not character) really did it best. Lizzy and Jane mention it in the below beat:
“How does she do that?” Jane opened her eyes and stared at me. “She says virtually nothing and I’m having a hot flash.” Her face shot beet red as she realized we weren’t alone. “It could just be the chemo.”
I laughed. “It’s all Austen. She’s a clever lady.”
“She never goes for the obvious. Her hero puts you in a carriage because that’s what we want—someone to love us like that, to woo us even if our egos or our fear makes us resist . . .” Jane’s voice drifted away. She wasn’t talking about Austen.
“I bet you do that, don’t you, Mr. Griffin? Woo your wife?” I tried to redirect my sister.
I think Jane (character not writer) is on to something. We want careers, we want to manage our finances, make decisions and be relevant to our kids, our families, in our lives and within our spheres of influence – but we also want that higher level romance that starts with an innocent affection, a deeper draw, and pulls us in, woos us and surprises us – that it can exist, endure and delight.
Maybe calling it “Puppy Love” simplifies it too much. We tend to use the expression for teenage love, unsubstantiated and naïve love. But I think it can harken to something more as well: A return ourselves to an innocent, pure emotion, untouched by our cynicism and experience. I also believe it can be experienced at any age. I guess like Austen I too believe life and love can be better at 27 than 18. (Same book alluded to above…I know this is getting too easy. J)
Please share your thoughts. What stories do feel capture this best? As you can tell by what I write – I tend to return to the classics. But I write contemporary – because I LOVE the contrast between our experiences and our desires; what we wear on our sleeves vs. feel in the depths of our hearts…. Do you have favorites?
Elizabeth Ahlstrom says
Oh dear. I thought this one would be easy. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca -Has that famous line about “a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal.” But I had to go back and look it up, because what came to mind at first was Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne in Persuasion when he says “A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.” Then there is the passage in Emma about “a look, a speech, a removal from one chair to another, a compliment implied.”
Elizabeth — Major confession time — The first quote? The one where is said “where is that from?” I FORGOT TO ADD THE QUOTE!!! I got so lost in the silly puppy — the real one, not the idea, and I forgot to insert it. Ughh…. I meant to pull the line from Wentworth because it does link to the reference from Lizzy & Jane and that is the story in which Austen tells us we can still be lovely later…
I am so sorry! Blame it on Patch the Puppy… and me :) Thanks!
Elizabeth Ahlstrom says
Oh good, I was hoping you were referencing Persuasion. And no worries about the missing quotation – you sent me on a literary goose-chase, and that’s never a bad thing. I loved this post, by the way. I can’t wait to read Lizzie and Jane.
Such a fun post to read because you’re writing about two favorite things: puppies and romance! ;)
I especially loved your (re)definition of puppy love: A return ourselves to an innocent, pure emotion, untouched by our cynicism and experience.
Cathy Bryant says
Such a thought-provoking post, Katherine. Thank you! I’m pragmatic by nature, but deep down in side, I long for romance sparked by a simple glance or touch. (I think we ALL do!) But another thought kept ringing in my head as I read your post, beyond human romance. Our heavenly Father woos us all and brings us to that place of desiring more and more of Him! Thanks for inspiring those thoughts in my heart and head this morning! :)
Andrea Cox says
Hi Katherine! Cute puppy. I haven’t yet read Dear Mr. Knightly, but I hope to someday. It sounds like a story I would like.
Thanks, Andrea… If you do read it. Let me know what you think…
Have a wonderful day… KBR
Katherine, it’s those quiet, simple “puppy love” actions that I think most resembles God’s love for us, and ours for Him, in many ways. Someone who has that innocent, wide eyed love for someone else reminds me of new Christians, and how we long to just be in the presence of God. Just like puppies get so excited, you think they will burst before you reach them, and like someone in a new romance thinks they will die if they don’t see the new beau, soon, new Christians have very similar behaviors. Do you remember when you first became a Christian? Do you remember how quickly you turned to God’s word to hear from Him, and prayed, just to talk to Him? Do you remember being excited to go to church to hear about God? I do! Ministers even refer to that as your “first love” with God. They often tell Christians that we need to go back, and recapture that “first love” we had as new Christians. I love your post, because we all need to be reminded to dwell in the “first love” of Christ. It doesn’t hurt to dwell in the “first love” with our husbands, either.
Thanks for the post.
I love your comments, Brightflute, and yes… that is the meta-theme to all the love in which I dabble within my books. Thank you so much for articulating it so well…
I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, just wanted to pop in and tell you that I really loved Dear Mr Knightly. It wasn’t at all what I had expected and was really thoughtful and lovely :)