Fordyce Maxwell: A handshake as emotional as it got

It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life
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WITH hindsight, that exact science, following a school nativity play with our first big-screen viewing of It’s A Wonderful Life was not the best idea. Yes, the nativity ritual is flaky, and yes, the film is corny, but there are times when no matter how good you think your defences, emotions sneak past.

Not that my defences are particularly good, especially at this time of year when there is a lot of false good cheer, bogus bonhomie and hard-sell in the outside world, but within the immediate family feelings are genuine and hugs and kisses frequent when we get together.

As we do that I think a little wistfully that for all I thought the world of my dad and that he knew, before his painfully early death, that I wasn’t turning out too badly, the most emotional we ever got was a manly handshake.

That’s the way it was with that generation, and as my mother was equally reserved, that became the way it was within our large family and with our friends. One of the best things about our children’s generation, and there are more good things about it and the next one than the Daily Mail would have us believe, is the unreserved way they greet and hug each other, and us, without embarrassment.

True, the “let it all pour out” approach founders when it comes to announcing results on TV reality shows. But that’s not genuine, that’s for the cameras.

At it’s best, youngsters showing emotion openly is wonderful as anyone of our generation who has been bereaved and has had the experience of friends crossing the street to avoid talking can testify. All that’s needed is an “I’m so sorry”, but it’s remarkable how many can’t bring themselves to do it.

Not youngsters. A friend who lost a son in tragic circumstances found exactly that. People she considered friends either avoided her, or when talking avoided mentioning her son. Her son’s friends arrived at the house within hours, alone or in groups, and without saying a word, most of them brawny rugby players and young farmers, simply gave her big hugs.

Obviously, while watching a primary school nativity, through an occasional misting-over our thoughts, and the thoughts of almost every parent and grandparent in the country, strayed to the families of 20 children shockingly murdered in the United States in a peaceful, modern small-town equivalent of Bedford Falls in It’s A Wonderful Life.

As President Obama said, speaking after that horror, we would now all hug our children a little more tightly. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do. «

Twitter: @FordyceMaxwell