“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.” Those words became iconic back in 1996 when author Nicholas Sparks published The Notebook. They became even more prominent after the subsequent movie release in 2004 starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. However, after going inside the perfect love story, many fans want to know if The Notebook is based on a true story.

Turns out, Nicholas took inspiration from his own life before writing the novel. It all happened before he married his now-ex-wife, Cathy Sparks, in 1989. On his website, he tells the sweet story about Cathy’s grandparents, who inspired the characters Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton.

'the notebook' warner bros.
Warner Bros.

The Notebook was inspired by my wife’s grandparents, two wonderful people who spent over 60 years together. My wife was very fond of these two people — the other set of grandparents had died when she was young — and she was one of those people who loved to visit on the weekends, growing up,” the author wrote. Sounds a lot like Noah and Allie, right?

However, when it came time for Nicholas and Cathy’s wedding, her grandparents were sadly too ill to attend. Now here comes the tearjerker. The day after the nuptials, the couple put on their white dress and black tuxedo and visited the grandparents with some wedding cake and a short video from their special day. During the surprise visit, her grandparents told them bits and pieces of their love story, and many of the parts eventually made it into The Notebook.

“Though their story was wonderful, what I most remember from that day is the way they were treating each other. The way his eyes shined when he looked at her, the way he held her hand, the way he got her tea and took care of her. I remember watching them together and thinking to myself that after 60 of marriage, these two people were treating each other exactly the same as my wife and I were treating each other after twelve hours,” Nicholas said. “What a wonderful gift they’d given us, I thought, to show us on our first day of marriage that true love can last forever.”