There is a very old saying that opposites attract.
I must admit that I have noticed that this does seem to be the case with people. Take my young grandchildren, for instance. I think there are thirteen of them altogether, but there always seem to be so many young people in and out of my son’s house – the second youngest, you understand, and I know he has only three but his brother’s children and their combined friends visit as well – and with the constant movement I become confused and forget who belongs and who is an outsider. I am unable to visit very often, and with each visit I find I have to get to know the young people all over again.
Take Ruth, for example. Ruth was a little chubby curly-top. She developed into a bumbling puppy of a girl with a very bright smile and a massive over-confidence. Quite unlike her sister who was a shy, giggly wand. Today she is still a shy, giggly wand. But Ruth ... today Ruth is a tall, comely girl with a sophisticated manner. But the object of her affection – I think his name is Allen – is an untidy youth with a disagreeable glower. His conversation consists of grunts ascending or descending the tonic solfa. To me they seem to be opposites, but perhaps that is attributable to my age.
Now in my day we were not long out of that time when parents insisted on the privilege of choosing a partner for their son or daughter. I am not quite sure whether it was felt that young people were unable to choose wisely or whether parents were loathe to believe that a decision of this magnitude could safely be left in their children’s hands. There was the matter of continuing the family line and also the matter of making proper material provision for the future. However, as I was saying, this was not the case when I was a young lady.
My dear Papa returned from the war – this was the First World War – a changed man. He became very withdrawn and remained so until his death some years later. When my dear Wilfred asked him to give his blessing to our marriage it was almost as though he hadn’t even heard him. Later he suddenly asked me if I really wanted to marry “that popinjay!” Nor did he seem very interested in my reply.
In the year following our marriage I began to understand Papa’s question. I realized that I did not really know Wilfred at all. Now I learned that he was a very proud man. His formerly kind indulgence became a slighting condescension. He was, of course, punctilious and polite, but it was the politeness of a master and my marriage became servitude. I was made very aware of my shortcomings; happiness gave way to apprehension and apprehension to fear.
Then Honore came to visit. Honore was Wilfred’s sister, a vivid dancing girl with a lively sense of humour. By the end of a week she had snubbed her brother several times and I saw storm clouds gathering. The birth of our second child was close and Honore became impatient with her brother’s lack of interest in his small son. Her impatience showed when she asked Wilfred at dinner whether he intended to accompany us to church in the morning. Wilfred’s reply was not designed to damp the fires flickering in her eyes.
“You and Chloe, Honore my dear, may take comfort in the fairytales of a bygone era. I intend to spend my day in worthwhile pursuits.”
I had never seen Honore angry. She was seated at the end of our table. Pushing the table forcefully from her she stood, trembling with fury. The table caught Wilfred in the midriff, tipping his chair, and he just managed to save himself from falling.
“You insufferable, odious, b-b-b-bully! I do not know how Chloe puts up with you!”
Honore walked round the table to tower over Wilfred, who looked thoroughly shocked and very silly, tipped back on his chair and clutching at the table to prevent himself from sliding underneath. I held my breath. Honore was right – I was beginning to wonder that myself.
Then she laughed. It was like a dam bursting. I relaxed.
“Wilfred,” she chortled, “I just wish you could see yourself. With all your airs and graces, and your huge pretensions, you are really a very silly little man.”
I couldn’t have agreed more!
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