St. Patrick's Day is marked in our home by the annual watching of the 1952 John Ford classic, The Quiet Man. If you haven't seen this charming depiction of a complicated courtship in 1920's Ireland, you're missing something delightful. Irish born but American raised, Sean Thornton (John Wayne) comes home to Ireland to seek peace and comfort in his mother country only to fall instantly in love with the fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara). But as he pursues the hot-tempered lass, Sean is thwarted and stalled by the elaborate (inscrutible?) courting rituals of the country.
My girls thrill at the scene where Sean and Mary Kate finally get to have their first date. This date was, of course, chaperoned by the village matchmaker in a horse-driven cart and according to a very strict and specific code of courtship. One of the highlights is when Sean and Mary Kate ditch the matchmaker and "borrow" a tandem bicycle to run off and have some time alone. As I watch this with my children I always felt the necessity to express my (somewhat feigned) dismay at the errant couple. "Naughty, naughty. They aren't supposed to be alone before the wedding!" (I do the same when he kisses her long before they've even had the reading of the banns -- whatever those are.)
I read an interview with Brooke Shields awhile back where she commented that she is raising her children Catholic (as she was raised) so they'd have something to rebel against. While this isn't the best reason to join a church, there is something to it. As I remember Wendy pointing out in A Return to Modesty, it is good to have social customs and codes so that young people have something to push against. Isn't that what puberty is about? Testing the rules, pushing to see how far you can go and what the reaction will be.
How fun that Mary Kate and Sean live in a culture where running away from the matchmaker to tromp around some ruins is naughty. And isn't it sad that we have virtually none of these customs to push against anymore. In our family, as our children get to the dating age (in thirty to forty years, God willing!) I hope that we remember to raise the bar pretty high for them and have some strict but enjoyable rules so that they can push a little against them without doing any real harm.
How we will do this is a mystery to me, so if anyone has suggestions, I am all ears. And no. We don't have a wagon on which to cart them around town!