What Ever Happened to Ethel and Herman? (A Love Story)

29 10 2010

Once there were two old and eccentric characters, Ethel and Herman. They met because they were created by two young girls in need of Halloween costumes. She became Herman and I became Ethel; their clothes were used but Ethel and Herman were stylin’, in a “used car” kind of way.

Ethel and Herman were one of those couples who just seemed to always be “nattering” at each other. He was a touch cantankerous and she was bossy; he just never measured up and she lacked humility. But somehow they made it work.

They didn’t get out much; but they always walked the neighborhood in October.

Herman had to travel a lot but he was a faithful letter writer; and Ethel wrote back. They could even get into an argument on paper; but there was love between the lines. Ultimately (and literally, I guess) they were made for each other and every letter is signed, “Herman and Ethel forever,” in case anyone had their doubts.

Ethel and Herman did not have what some would describe as a perfect relationship, that’s for sure. They were never as selfless or sensitive as they should have been; they sure picked at each other which was ironic, given that their own faults were so terribly obvious. Yet never once did either think things would be better without each other; if anyone had suggested it, they wouldn’t have heard the end of it! Herman would say that Ethel needed him, Ethel would say Herman would be lost without her. Ethel would poke at Herman and he would poke her back, yet he always offered his arm, and she always took it; love is funny that way.

From the day they met and for many years, they celebrated their anniversary on October 31. They went door to door and gave advice to people on their doorstops. They couldn’t help themselves, there was always so much material, so many things to point out. People were hospitable; mostly, they couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Herman and Ethel are long gone, but sometimes I think I see them. Some couple who has managed to stick together, rolling their eyes, shaking their head, shuffling along in their marriage. Not the stuff of a romance novel, but sort of novel all the same. They know each other flaws, and if there is any mistaking it they would be happy to point them out (not their own, of course); not a question, no question at all: they are in it with each other until the end.

And in the end (as I imagine it), well, Ethel goes first and Herman says, “Finally, I get the last word,” not ready to admit how terrible bare his arm is without her’s through his. A tear; he reaches to get a handkerchief from his pocket only to find a note that says, “Were you born in a barn? Get a clean one out of the drawer and tuck your shirt in. Ethel.”

Herman and Ethel, forever.

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