Sunday, September 24, 2017

Like Watson, I love to think of Jack Munro.

Somewhere in the middle of the 1880s, a man named Grant "Jack" Munro found himself suddenly a father, in the most abrupt of fashions.

In his thirties, doing well as a hop merchant, married for a few years, Jack Munro was the sort of fellow who has a favorite pipe that he loves so much he has it mended with silver bands. Even though the pipe came to him in less prosperous times, he shows a loyalty to it that tells us something about him. He thinks with his heart as much as his head . . . else why attach such value to a mere pipe?

When such a man marries, he marries with all of his being. And Jack Munro did, meeting a young widow named Effie, committing himself to that relationship whole-heartedly. He cares enough to be concerned that his wife's finances might be sorely hurt by his own business dealings, even as she shows such faith in him to merge her capital with his. He's a commitment guy.

And when circumstances seem to indicate that something horrendous is going to tear his marriage apart, Jack Munro goes to the best man in England to seek advice on just what that thing might be . . . and what he should do about it. The results were recorded by John Watson under the title "The Yellow Face," which also gives us a "Norbury" that has nothing to do with Mary Watson taking a bullet. This "Norbury," the original warning word to be whispered in Sherlock's ear, was not the most horrific moment of Watson's life, but "one of which I love to think."

Watson's own words. A moment that is "one of which I love to think."

And of late, it becomes increasingly attractive to retreat into one of those moments John Watson put on paper for us. A different time, a different place, a world where Sherlock Holmes brings truth and sets things aright for his fellow Victorians . . . most of the time, anyway. He tries.

If, as I found myself at the end of this particularly disputatious weekend, wanting to retreat into one of Watson's moments, I can think of none better than one of Sherlock Holmes's failures. The moment he did tell Watson to whisper "Norbury" in his ear whenever he was getting over-confident. And a moment Watson loved to think of that was, most definitely, not a failure.

That moment: Jack Munro, discovering he was a step-father of the sort of happy little girl who can make John Watson burst out laughing during the climax of a case with her smile. And it's not his laughter that makes the moment Watson loves . . . it's Jack Munro's reaction to fully understanding that he is now father to a child he has never seen before.

Jack picks up the little girl, gives her a kiss, and says they should all go home. Jack Munro, a man who shows he loves and commits to even the simplest of things in his life, goes all in on fatherhood in an instant. Race is no barrier. All the preconceptions and mistaken ideas he had going into that moment are no barriers. Jack Munro recognizes that it's a moment for love and nothing else, and he goes for it.

And it was a moment that John Watson loved to think of, and one he shared with us to love as well.

I'm grateful to him, and his literary agent, Conan Doyle, for that moment. For after some of what's been going around lately, it's a moment that we can remember has been on paper for well over a hundred years . . . and inspiring us all to be a little more like Jack Munro.

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