I bought the book Queen of the Home compiled by Jennifer M. McBride a while back and in it was this beautiful play called When Queens Ride By by Olive White Fortenbacher (Which she adapted from the short story of the same name by Agnes Slight Turnbull). I was thinking about this play today while driving around and wanted to share it with you (It’s not terribly long, so if you have the time, it’s well worth reading in it’s entirety).
The basis of the play is a young couple who have taken on a farm. In her quest to help her husband and her family, Jenny Mangrave had taken on more of the responsibilities of the farm and had little to no time for their home or children. She then meets a stange woman, who in her older age has a youthful beauty about her. In their talking, the stranger relays this story:
Just after we were married, my husband decided to have his own business, so he started a very tiny one. I helped my husband in the store, but we would both be tired and discouraged after a hard day at the office and we didn’t seem to be having any great success. The house got run down and dinner was always a hasty affair, and soon we both started complaining and bickering with each other. Finally, we decided that maybe I should stay at home and let him take care of his work at the office as best he could. And then I worked in my house to make it a clean, shining, happy place. My husband would come home dead-tired and discouraged, ready to give up the whole thing. But after he had eaten and sat in our bright little living room, and I had told him all the funny things I could invent about my day, I could see him change. By bedtime, he had his courage back, and by morning, he was all ready to go out and fight again. And at last he won.
Jenny, at first frustrated by the advice to help her own family, decides to try this and attacks it with zeal. The difference it makes in their life along with the promise of beauty is wonderful. Not necessarily just her beauty, but the beauty of their potential together.
This wonderful play got me thinking of the concept we often talk about in our Men being our Rock. He is there for us to cling to; to hold tight to when we need him to hold us steady. When we feel frightened, anxious, angry, we can turn to him to calm the storm. But what is the corollary to this? What can we do for our men to support and be there for them that can possibly show how much him being our Rock means to us?
What many of us will try to do is take on his load. We will try to make the money, pay the bills, put our backs up to the world and be strong and independent, even when we’re married. We’ll do this while still wanting our husbands to be that Rock and clinging to him through the storm. We are convinced that our strength and independence will help him weather it, as well. But, that’s not how it works. A Rock cannot cling to another Rock to steady himself. He cannot grab onto another solid surface to find relief. The stress of the day just bounces off of that hard surface and back onto him. There is no place for it to go, so it simply continues to grow. Our husbands and our Men do not need their own Rock in us to cling to, they need a soft place to lie their heads. They need a place they can go to and let the stress melt away. That is the corollary to our husbands Rock. A soft place to land. A place where they can just be and enjoy the beauty and peace around them.They then have the strength and energy to be our Rock and to face the world again and again and again.
This is so very hard for us to see today. We are encouraged to be strong, but that so often turns into being abrasive. We think we are helping by nagging, by demanding, by saying our way is the way it must be done. We become hard (and often brittle) and when our husbands need a place to let their stress dissipate, we only give them a hard surface for it to bounce back onto them.
To let go and to see that we aren’t being the help he needs can be very hard to see. It feels passive to us; almost as if we aren’t doing much of anything. But that’s simply not true. To have a space to let the day go, to let it dissipate into nothing and have a soft spot to land and recharge is a wonderful and necessary thing. Don’t discount what you are doing as nothing or unnecessary. Him having a soft and beautiful spot to land is just as important as him being your Rock to cling to in a storm.
Side Note: This is not to say that wives should not help as they can whenever necessary. My point is that men don’t need more hardness to help them through their day.
Excerpt from When Queens Ride By, Olive White Fortenbacher. Published 1932. Adapted from When Queens Ride By, by Agnes Slight Turnbull. Published 1888.