There’s a scene in The Quiet Man where Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) and Sean Thornton (John Wayne) are quarreling over the undelivered dowry that her brother is keeping from her.
The scene goes like this:
Mary Kate: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of havin’ my own things about me. My spinet…over there, and the table here, and…my own chairs to rest upon. And the dresser over there in that corner. And my own china and pewter shinin’ about me.
Sean Thornton: Seems like a lot of fuss and grief over a little furniture and stuff.
Mary Kate: There’s years of happy dreamin’ in those things of mine…and I want them. I want my dream.
I’ll be honest. The first time I saw that movie I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, either. I was young at the time, sitting there with my father, and I remember turning to him and asking, “Why don’t they just buy new furniture? What’s the big deal?”
“Just be quiet and watch the movie,” he said.
You see, I grew up in the days before remote controllers. There was no way to pause or stop the movie to have a discussion about the dowry. The Quiet Man was my father’s favorite movie and he wasn’t about to miss the big fight scene between Sean Thornton and Will Danaher (Mary Kate’s brother). So I sat quietly, as I was told, and watched the movie.
It wasn’t until we were displaced after Superstorm Sandy that I understood Mary Kate’s words and knew the importance of “havin’ my own things about me.” During those seven months, while our house was being rebuilt, we lived with my mother, who was gracious enough to make room for us in her home. But even though I grew up in that home, it didn’t feel like home to me anymore.
I felt displaced, out of sync. My own things weren’t about me – my favorite chair, my books, my writing desk, the kitchen table, my dishes and familiar knickknacks. I was constantly opening the wrong cabinets in search of a dish or a glass. Try as I might to fit into my mother’s daily rhythms, I felt like a clumsy intruder, a stranger in a strange place.
When we decided to lift our house this year, we knew we had to find temporary housing during the process. My mother offered to take us in again (God bless her!) but we were lucky enough to find a charming affordable two-bedroom duplex apartment on top of an old Victorian home. It’s close to our home, so we can keep an eye on the work being done, and it’s roomy enough for the three of us to live comfortably – if we live like sailors in a submarine, and leave nothing out of place. Nothing.
We vowed to pack only the essentials: an old scratched and marred oak kitchen table that I was using as my sewing table at home, a small loveseat, a rocking chair, a couple of small end tables, some pots and pans for basic meals, six plates, four sets of utensils, four mugs and some candles to provide a familiar scent.
But then I saw the small alcove on the second floor. It was a perfect little writing spot, with an east-facing window framed in tiny squares of stained glass. When the sun shines through in the morning it casts patches of soft colored light along the gabled walls. My husband said it would be no problem to bring my desk over. Of course I agreed, and then I piled on a lamp, a small table to hold my printer and some additional books.
I found a warm sunny south facing window where I can work on the king size quilt I just finished basting together. So I went home to get that, along with my sewing supplies, and another small box of Christmas fabric to work on some smaller projects. If we get snowed in, I’ll have plenty to keep busy.
Now it was starting to feel like home – with my desk and my books around me, the afghan my mother knitted draped across the rocking chair, and the houseplants lining the windowsills.
My son brought his laptop and some movies – classics like Rear Window, Amadeus, Lord of The Rings, Moonstruck, Lawrence of Arabia, and, my favorite, Chocolat. He must have had the same thoughts about getting snowed in.
My husband brought the entire contents of our liquor cabinet and a box filled with assorted wine, cordial, rocks and shot glasses. Now, what should I make of that?
If there are any psychologists reading this blog, I would appreciate your input.