Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holding hands in a movie show...

Early next month it will be 47 years since we married in Toronto, our mothers checking in by phone from Australia. The longevity has been a triumph of stubbornness, as much as anything. We were both brought up to honour our word, and that included marriage-vows.

Our child (1975) added an extra dimension to the marriage – an amendment to the contract, if you like. Even when both contracting parties positively like the prospect of such an amendment, the reality can be a nasty shock. As I blogged last September [A young man’s car], “Where two had been company, three was a crowd”.

We were children of the 1950s, when divorce was not readily granted by the state or condoned by one’s family and community. Simple incompatibility was insufficient grounds to break a sworn contract. Marriage was for life. Battered wives were not excused, unless their small children were also battered – and even child-abuse didn’t warrant a divorce in the eyes of pious Christians.

In the crowd I hung around with before I left on my travels, promiscuity was rare. A Frank Sinatra song captured the innocence of the era:
Holding hands in a movie show, when all the lights are low,  
May not be new. 
But I like it – how about you? 

London in The Swinging Sixties opened my eyes to a whole new world. Wow. My (our) son’s generation inherited that world, and built on it. It would have been a factor in their collective decision to defer marriage beyond what used to be the standard age – and sometimes indefinitely.

When he and I had “The Talk”, it was about marriage, not about sex. He was probably rattling his pots and pans plenty in his late teens, and here in the West Indies the advice of peers carries far more weight than that of parents.

Today, I fret about my granddaughters, who are just beginning to discover boys. Fortunately or not, they live in pretty much the same blithe innocence as Linda and I did at their ages. Their home and school are at some physical remove from urban pressure, and their peers are (generally) equally innocent. Will they think that holding hands in a movie show is a big deal, or will they want to join the trail a bit further along? When neither Mum nor Dad has ever bothered with marriage, will the girls be equally wary of long-term commitment? Very likely.

Do they wish their parents had stayed together? Possibly not, you know. After all, there is more variety in their lives when there are two parental homes. In a spirit of objective enquiry they once asked Ross why he had so many ladies in his life. (They used the Norwegian word that translates as “ladies”, not the word for “women”!) More recently, they marvelled – to me, in English – at how many official and unofficial grandparents they had, who loved them. They showed no regret or wistfulness, just a wholehearted contentment with the way things were. They were counting their blessings.

Linda and I spend four weeks each year in their company – two there and two here – and would like to spend more. However, more time with us might cause scheduling difficulties during school vacations. All the Norskies would not easily give up any of their share of the pie.