Monday, August 22, 2011
Forty One And Counting.....
It's not that you're any braver in youth than in maturity, you're just less experienced and a lot more naive. What? Listen to cautionary tales from your elders---old fossils! Of course I'd never have said so, but come on, my parents were in their fifties, ancient! What could they possibly know about being young and "in love"? For that matter, what did I know about any of that? But I was an expert, based on? Grimm's Fairy Tales? My vast [not!]experience with the opposite sex? The fact that I'd read every word of Archbishop Fulton Sheen's advice to lovelorn youth as serialized in the Sunday Independent? How is it possible to think oneself such an expert when one isn't? Youth. That must be the answer. A commodity, according to my father, wasted on the young! They weren't pushy, those ancient Irish parents of mine. Careful to acknowledge my grown-up-edness. Aware, perhaps, that too much protest would make us more determined. Not that that stopped the parents of the Foreigner. They protested long and loudly, even threatening to boycott the whole event. Which merely served to make their son dig his heels in all the harder. Still, a few tentative "Are you sures?" Brushed aside by Miss Know-It-All's "Of course!"
The day dawned beautiful and sunshiny. Sixteen year old Blister looked stunning in pink, her hair a glossy brown mane. Mother looked every inch "mother of the bride" in a stylish cream dress, every hair coaxed into it's assigned place under her elegant little hat. Dad looked as ever, one of Nature's Gentlemen, lean as a thoroughbred, ears protruding, togged out in his best suit. Brother was scrubbed to beyond-recognition shininess, Gentleman's Quarterly how are you, in a collared shirt and tie and smart suit. Handsome Fr. Neville swished about in his soutane and his Cary Grant dimples, making all the ladies swoon, and curse Rome for making priests celibate.......All the aunts and uncles were in from the country, in their Sunday best, eager to get a good look at "the Foreigner." The Foreigner himself looked very spiffy in his double-breasted, dove-grey suit and his shiny new wing tips, which glisten still in his closet today, worn just the once! Behind his birth control glasses, the brown eyes that had been my undoing were as brown and handsome as ever. But, did they even know each other, these two who were about to promise for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, 'til death do us part? When the dust settled and the guests were gone, would they be tongue-tied and lost for words?
Dad made a big to-do of surreptitiously slipping a little satin draw-string purse into my hand at the reception. It contained several large, heavy crowns, old coins not in general circulation. They were a symbolic dowry, since Dad didn't have a stable of race horses, or forty head of Herefords to bestow on the Foreigner for taking me off his hands. They never made it out of The Old Ground. Because it was the height of foolishness to give them to me in the first place, in my excited and scatterbrained state. I often wonder who found them and if they felt good about keeping them....
And a week later, blithely kissing Mum and Dad goodbye at Shannon Airport, as though we were merely flying off to an adjacent county instead of the other side of the world and the rest of our lives, pretty much without them.
Who can put an old head on young shoulders? And would it even be wise, were it possible? Would the human race die out without the foolhardiness, innocence/ignorance, reckless abandon of youth?
Is it love that makes the world go around? Or is it sticking with the promises you made, gritting your teeth when the going gets tough, hanging in there when all you really want to do is run home, screaming, to mum and dad..........? Then one day, forty one years later, you find yourself sitting on the couch, blogging about it, trying to see the big picture, and you realize that now you are the ancient, irrelevant parent, you are the one anxious for them to choose wisely, you are the one trying not to be pushy, but asking tentatively "Are you sure?" The truth is no-one is ever sure. Life is like a swimming pool. You just have to close your eyes and plunge in.