When I was in high school, I played the part of Elizabeth Proctor in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Of all of the lines I memorized and recited hundreds of times, only one sticks with me after 12 years. A bit of literary background first (working from my questionable memory): During the era of Puritan witch-hunts, John Proctor, Elizabeth’s husband, is accused of lechery and witchcraft and is doomed to be hanged unless he confesses. He struggles between wanting to protect his innocent name and wanting to preserve his life. At the end of the play, John and Elizabeth have a heart-to-heart conversation in which he apologizes for his failures as a husband and friend, confessing the temptation and interest he had once in Abigail, a young woman who helped around their house. Elizabeth stops his apology with her own, saying, “It was a cold house I kept, John.”
“It was a cold house I kept…”
When I recited this as a naive eighteen year old, my stomach balled into a knot and my imagination filled the Proctor home with gloom and gray and cold-shoulders turned. Even though I didn’t know much about marriage at the time, I knew that this was a terrible confession.
Since then, those words have wrung in my head, warning me, sometimes becoming me, sometimes repulsing me. Now that I am married, I know that Elizabeth’s confession is as terrible as I imagined. For, when I am stingy and guarded with Ryan, the lifeblood in our home runs cold. There are very few things that are worse than that.
I remembered these words recently when I watched The Jane Austen Book Club. Five women of various ages and personalities are trying to hash out why Austen’s Colonel Brandon falls in love with Marianne Dashwood instead of Mrs. Dashwood, who is closer to his age. Grigg, the one man in the club, explains, “I understand why Colonel Brandon goes for Marianne. And itâ€™s not â€˜cause sheâ€™s young. Itâ€™s because sheâ€™s generous with herself. Sheâ€™s willing to risk her heart. No rules, no fear.”
“…she’s generous with herself…” “…she’s generous with herself…”
This phrase has stuck with me just as powerfully as Elizabeth’s warning. For, when I share all of my joys and dreams and hurts with Ryan, the lifeblood in our home flows so vibrantly and refreshingly. And truly, there are very few things that are better in life than a warm home.
How powerful is the difference between a turned shoulder and open arms; how powerful is the difference between a silent roommate and an enthusiastic companion who risks her own heart to love good and strong.
Like you, I have so many interests and feelings and thoughts, I have so many facets to my personality; Ryan has equally so many that I have yet to discover…
“…she’s generous with herself…”
This is the line I choose for my script.