Miner tragedy;The big picture

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
(Photograph) - Whose side are you on? You know you are getting old when you watch 'Romeo and Juliet' and find yourself thinking the parents have a point. Here is the mother, a coalminer in West Virginia, USA, who has returned from her shift to find her 15-year old daughter ready for a final fitting of her wedding dress. The groom is 14 and has no job.

Where is her father? What does he have to say about this? Time for a cigarette - and a long, hard argument.

And here is the daughter, head in hands, trainer laces dangling, sitting on the bed in their modest home, crying into her bouquet and wondering how her mother can be so mean.

You never listen to me! Time to run away from home?

Teenagers always want to grow up. And adults always want to stop them.

The mother's stocky body, grimy face and tired, no-nonsense posture speak of a hard day's work and a hard life. How can such a grubby creature grasp her child's vision of loveliness, the pristine purity of the wedding moment?

Impossible, perhaps, for the young girl with her lace flounces and silk posy to imagine her parent was ever young. Her sulky slump conveys all the boundless misery of adolescence, of dreams denied. Impossible, perhaps, for her to imagine the implacable narrowing of horizons an early marriage to the wrong boy might bring.

Can they ever understand each other? Which is the real story?

Perhaps there is a clue in the wire-sculpted heart just glimpsed hanging on the wall above the chest of drawers. Twisted heart, broken dreams. Whose dreams, though?

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