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By Terey Ramin
It was a bad week.
On Monday, Alice Meyers turned thirty-five.
On Tuesday, her eighteen year old twins graduated from high school.
Wednesday, the rumor that the small independent bookstore—which had fed, clothed and housed her and the twins for the past fifteen years—was going out of business became a fact.
In Thursday’s wash she found six square innocent-looking hermetically sealed packages that let her know at least one, if not both of her girls, was no longer innocent.
Friday, Allyn, the twin older by five minutes, climbed into a camper filled with “just friends, Ma” —three of whom were boys—and set off on a three thousand mile cross-country pilgrimage to Mecca L.A., land of the stars. On Saturday, Rebecca, the younger twin, called from East Lansing—home of the Michigan State University Spartans and her boyfriend of two years—to say “Hi, Ma! Mike and I eloped last night hope you’re not mad and oh by the way you’ll be a grandma in six and a half months isn’t that wonderful? ‘Bye.”
At one o’clock Sunday morning, Alice sat on the couch in the living room picking at the afghan, thinking that someone hadn’t bothered with those little square innocent-looking foil wrapped packages.
At one o’clock Sunday afternoon, she lay where she’d crawled shortly after her late-night reflections: in bed in her darkened bedroom in her robe and slippers with the quilt drawn up to her chin and the pillows piled up on her face, assuring herself that she wasn’t a bad mother, she really wasn’t. Every parent’s shock rocked her hard. It was as though Allyn and Rebecca had mutated suddenly overnight, turning into people she didn’t know. She’d thought everything was fine—or as fine as it could be when you were the single parent of pretty, popular, opinionated and personable teenage daughters. It wasn’t as though she’d ignored them. She rarely worked evenings, worked the shortest hours she could on weekends, was always there no matter what the girls needed, set them the best example she could. She never went out, never dated, never brought men home….
Funny, she didn’t feel like Saint Alice.
She scrunched deeper under the bedclothes. Just because she’d watched over them, fed them, clothed them, lectured them, listened to them, wiped their noses and bandaged their knees for the better part of eighteen years didn’t mean she knew—or had to know—everything about them. Did it? Her own mother had known nothing about her at the same age. Or so Alice remembered being bent on proving at the time…
She pulled the pillows off her face and stared at the spot where the light bulb yellowed the ceiling. Sanity told her that like everything else, knowledge was relative and motherhood was blind. And no matter how well she’d prepared Allyn and Rebecca for adulthood, or protected them from every possible eventuality, she couldn’t keep them in a box forever, couldn’t live their lives for them. She couldn’t keep them from making their own decisions, their own mistakes.
Couldn’t prevent them from repeating hers.
God, she thought, having children sure did make you look at yourself, didn’t it?
She tried counting the water spots on the ceiling to distract herself from remembering the life-shaking mistake she’d made at the end of her junior year in high school when Matthew Dane Meyers, Pontiac Catholic football hero, had invited her to his senior prom. That had been quite a night—quite a summer, as a matter of fact, until she’d realized she was pregnant. He’d said all the right things: Marry me, Alice, it’ll be all right. I won’t go to college, I’ll get a job. We’ll elope, it’ll be all right, I swear. He’d made all the right moves: I, Matthew Dane Meyers, take you, Alice Marie Brannigan to be my wife… Except.
There was always an “except”.
Except that even after they’d announced their impending parenthood and subsequent marital status to her parents, he hadn’t told his parents that he’d married a pregnant girlfriend they’d never met. Except that he’d lied to them so that they’d think they were giving him money to get a head start on his college credits and campus life when what he was really doing was getting an apartment with his wife. Except that when his parents found out what he was really doing and then had come to interfere, he hadn’t stood up to them, had let them verbally pound his new bride into the ground. Had let them get his marriage to her annulled.
Alice’s jaw clenched. Even after all this time, thinking about it still made her angry.
Her own parents had been wonderful, sad but supportive, telling her that they believed in her, would stand behind their adult daughter as they’d stood beside their girl-child. Now it was Alice’s turn to learn to think that way. Because the bottom line was, if she hadn’t managed to teach Allyn and Rebecca to be good people by now, it was too late. She’d done her best, done everything she’d known to do with them. The same way her parents had done with her.
She turned over in her bed and pulled the covers around her ears. The “I did my best” philosophy didn’t help.