I hope your Valentine’s Day was a good one. Here’s my belated post.
I love books, their smell, their feel, their role in our lives. To be honest it’s been a struggle for me to develop a relationship with my Kindle, although enough years have passed that now we’re pretty good friends.
But a book–ah, that’s different. Years ago I used to dine in a restaurant designed to look like a library. With endless rows of old books lining its walls, it was possible while sitting in a booth to just reach up and pull one off a shelf, a bonus in the event of a delayed dinner delivery or a dull date. One night this title caught my eye: Modern Marriage and How To Bear It* by Maud Churton Braby.
Printed in London, there was no copyright date inside, although I eventually discovered that it was first printed in 1920. A few of the ragged edges of its yellowed pages had never even been sliced open. (Some of you may have to Google what I’m talking about here.) Inside the cover a simple notation, reflecting a resale, had been made in pencil: $2.00. I asked permission from the manager to buy the book, but he graciously gifted it to me.
Who was this avant-garde writer who took on a sensitive subject with such a bold sense of humor? With a book title and author name like these, I envisioned a woman, perhaps a suffragette, decked out in finery capped with a hat that made a statement. I wasn’t wrong. In fact, on closer examination, perhaps Maud was the model for the cover.
Photo credit Amy Cassels.
Over the course of the book’s 232 pages, there is some advice l don’t agree with like this, to wives: “Never tell him home truths and never cry.” Wow, I’d be in real trouble there. On the other hand, husbands are admonished to “be reasonable about money even if you cannot be generous.” This is definitely wisdom.
It’s provocative to learn what a woman in 1920 thought future generations of her sex would say regarding marriage and divorce. That’s revealed in the chapter, “Leasehold Marriage in Practice: A Dialogue in 1999,” which is prefaced with, “Katherine and Margaret, both attractive women on the borderland of forty, are lunching together. They are old friends who have not met for years.” I particularly liked “on the borderland of forty,” which connotes some wild new frontier. Actually, it is.
Speaking of 1999 and new frontiers, a quick aside: My husband and I have been watching Space:1999 lately, a series filmed from 1975-1977 starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Even if like me you’re not especially a sci-fi fan, you may want to check it out. It’s not only often inadvertently quite hilarious to the 2021 viewer, but offers some interesting fodder for ethical discussions. Keith seems to be especially attached to the spaceship, The Eagle, which Commander John Koenig (Landau) seems to have an endless supply of, or at least we hope he does because they get blown up on a regular basis.
Back to the book, some comments are pretty funny to me personally, given my spouse and our lives. For instance, “The ideal husband rarely talks…” Or this one: “Twenty years of uncertain domestic arrangements is enough to wear out anyone. I’ve never been able to feel settled in any house, or let myself get attached to a place or plant a garden even.”
The following truth touched a nerve, and reminded me of an eloquent email I received from one of my daughters a few Mother’s Days ago. Braby writes: “Only when we become fathers and mothers do we realise (sic) all that our fathers and mothers have done for us.”
In closing, the author sums up: “…be very tolerant, expect little, give gladly, put respect before everything, cultivate courtesy and love each other all you can.” These suggestions comport with what I work on in my relationship with my husband. I try to treat him as though we are in the very beginning of our marriage. Wouldn’t I say please if I were asking him to do something, and thank you for making my coffee and cooking dinner–every single day? You bet I would. As Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
Until next time, enjoy your weekend and the luminous Snow Moon. There’s a lot of beauty around. And a whole lot of love.
*Available on Amazon.com (with updated covers, unfortunately). On another site, archive.org, you can download Modern Marriage in its original typeset, which is more authentic and obviously also cost-efficient.