Recently, I had the opportunity to see the movie "Junebug," which is the story of a family in North Carolina. A family composed of middle-aged parents and two sons. The elder son lives in The Big City and has recently married a beautiful, well-educated, artsy, very kind-hearted woman. The younger son (Johnny) lives, along with his very pregnant wife (Ashley), in his parents' home. The story unfolds when the older son brings his new wife home to meet this rather dysfunctional, though utterly loving and lovely, family.
Johnny (played by Ben McKenzie) and Ashley (played by Amy Adams) are, seemingly, rather ill-prepared for marriage. They were high-school sweethearts. Johnny is still struggling to earn his GED, and it is unclear whether or not Ashley managed to graduate. It is also a little vague whether or not Ashely became pregnant before or after their marriage. Although, it was probably before. She is, though, very much in love with Johnny. He, too, is in love with her, even though she doesn't really feel his love. At one point, she says something to this effect, "I wish Johnny loved me like he did in high school." And we see a picture of the two of them from those happy days -- a picture in which he is, quite obviously, head-over-heels for her. He still is head-over-heels for her; but, he is basically scared shitless by their situation, so his actions do not always belie his feelings. There are a few scenes in this lovely film, though, which demonstrate quite clearly how much young Johnny loves young Ashley, such as when he attempts to record a TV show for her about one of her very favorite things -- meerkats. The ending of the story, too, makes it abundantly clear how much Johnny loves Ashley. In fact, I think the final events, as they unfold, show Johnny himself discovering just how deep his love for his young bride happens to be.
And so for the gold wedding bands. I love to notice little details in movies -- tiny, understated things that contribute to the story-telling in profound ways. Johnny and Ashley's wedding bands are simple, unadorned, rather slim gold rings. They kind of scream, "Shot-gun wedding! No money! Oh, crap!" But, they also illustrate, in their simplicity, the innocence and promise of young love. Young love, as immature and inexperienced as it can be, is also full of hope. There can be a depth and a faith and a truth to it that is sometimes difficult to find in the more "complex" love of more "mature" people. And in these very basic wedding rings we are reminded of what love is in its basic and most elemental form. And we are reminded that young people -- as "immature" as they can be -- are also capable of a very pure, very uncomplicated kind of love for each other -- as pure and uncomplicated as these pure and uncomplicated gold wedding bands.
Am I saying here that all the 18-year-olds should get each other pregnant, marry, and live with their parents? No.
What I am saying is that young people are capable of love -- love which is real and simple and pure. And given the right soil in which to grow -- such as parents who provide a good example and emotional support, a community that is nurturing, an economy that provides dignified work -- perhaps young love can put down healthy roots, grow, and bloom into something truly beautiful.