“Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star…”
I turned a hall corner and startled a young couple holding each other closely, sharing a moment of love and tenderness.
They hurriedly stepped apart, blushing, embarrassed, and their reaction was obviously, that I, of another generation, couldn’t possibly understand them or their actions.
We live in a world that is programmed to think that love, and all its glory and fulfillment, is meant only for the young. And that if you are 50, or anywhere beyond, that love is out of the question. That any marriage, at those ages, must be nothing but empty, hollow arrangements and could have nothing to do with that tender emotion.
How wrong they are. Oh, heavens, how wrong they are, and how much they have to learn as they are taking their first startled steps into the world that is the very foundation for every birth, book, opera, song, poem, sculpture, work of art and so much more.
They were so young, so starry eyed and they think the joys and love they are experiencing can never be understood by people their parent’s ages. But they must be excused, for we know that every generation thinks they invented the wonders of love and sex.
The wise (blest? lucky?) ones go through the young infatuations, and though moved, recognize them for what they are. To enjoy, learn, but carefully, oh, most carefully avoid any acts or commitments that could entail a child, marriage and so often a divorce. Or a child to be placed for adoption, or raised by a single mother.
I still re-read Margaret Mead’s 1925 book, Coming of Age in Samoa, after she lived there as an Anthropologist. Among other aspects of their life, Mead wrote of the teen years. In Samoa at that time, love and sex were expected, and accepted with no criticism. She compared sex of those early years, like bolts of lightning, and over just as quickly.
However, if a Samoa pair conceived a child, (and here their rules were adamant and frightenly strict) but with no censoring they were automatically considered ‘married’ and would continue that responsibility until the child reached adulthood. And horrible punishment followed if those rules were ignored. Mead tells that those early Samoans had no jails. Social laws took care of such things quickly and permanently. The book’s an eye-opener.
But then, when those ‘family years’ were completed, they had done their duty to the next generation, they were again free to do as they pleased. And again with no criticism. What did it matter? It was the children who were important and had to be nurtured.
But back from old Samoa to my encounter in that hallway. Teenage love comes, and goes and that young pair I interrupted has so much to learn. How swiftly that first wild love can fling them into a marriage they’re far from ready for. A child? A marriage/divorce? Leaving both disillusioned, bitter and their lives irrevocably changed.
But life does not stand still. We get older, hopefully wiser and no matter how badly burned or blessed with that first Bolt Of Lightning, time passes. Life heals and then another love happens. Not the same as the first, nor taking the place of any cherished memories but entirely different. And welcome.
Yes, I passed that young couple without seemingly giving them more than a passing glance, but they can never know what thoughts and memories they stirred and at the same time what hopes and fears of where their lives, could/would now go.
I knew they thought I could not understand them, but I understood so well that a smile touched my lips as I recalled the song that tells us, “Love is Wonderful, the Second Time Around,” And whoever penned those words knew exactly what they were talking about.
And while I’m on the subject and not in Samoa or even in that hallway, but as if you don’t already know, I’ll tell you a secret. If you’re lucky, a third time is nothing to be ‘sneezed at’ either. And a fourth??? You’re asking the wrong person, but each one, in its own way is distinct, different, wonderful, and oh me, all this coming from just one moment’s encounter in an out-of- the-way hallway.