That was Dee being playful, being Dee, but we both knew what she meantthat Id become too stuffy and self-protected. Too conventional. This past Christmas, while she was home, Id posted a Gary Larson cartoon on the refrigerator with a magnet that proclaimed me worlds greatest mom. In it, two cows stood in their idyllic pasture. One announced to the other, "I dont care what they say, Im not content." Id meant it as a little joke, for Dee.
I remembered now how Hugh had laughed at it. Hugh, who read people as if they were human Rorschachs, yet hed seen nothing suggestive in it. It was Dee whod stood before it an inordinate amount of time, then given me a funny look. She hadnt laughed at all.
To be honest, I had been restless. It had started back in the fallthis feeling of time passing, of being postponed, pent up, not wanting to go up to my studio. The sensation would rise suddenly like freight from the ocean floorthe unexpected discontent of cows in their pasture. The constant chewing of all that cud.
With winter the feeling had deepened. I would see a neighbor running along the sidewalk in front of the house, training, I imagined, for a climb up Kilimanjaro. Or a friend at my book club giving a blow-by-blow of her bungee jump from a bridge in Australia. Orand this was the worst of alla TV show about some intrepid woman traveling alone in the blueness of Greece, and Id be overcome by the little river of sparks that seemed to run beneath all that, the blood/sap/wine, aliveness, whatever it was. It had made me feel bereft over the immensity of the world, the extraordinary things people did with their livesthough, really, I didnt want to do any of those particular things. I didnt know then what I wanted, but the ache for it was palpable.
I felt it that morning standing beside the window, the quick, furtive way it insinuated itself, and I had no idea what to say to myself about it. Hugh seemed to think my little collapse of spirit, or whatever it was I was having, was about Dees being away at college, the clichéd empty nest and all that.
Last fall, after wed gotten her settled at Vanderbilt, Hugh and Id rushed home so he could play in the Waverly Harris Cancer Classic, a tennis tournament hed been worked up about all summer. Hed gone out in the Georgia heat for three months and practiced twice a week with a fancy Prince graphite racket. Then Id ended up crying all the way home from Nashville. I kept picturing Dee standing in front of her dorm waving good-bye as we pulled away. She touched her eye, her chest, then pointed at usa thing shed done since she was a little girl. Eye. Heart. You. It did me in. When we got home, despite my protests, Hugh called his doubles partner, Scott, to take his place in the tournament, and stayed home and watched a movie with me. An Officer and a Gentleman. He pretended very hard to like it.
The deep sadness I felt in the car that day had lingered for a couple of weeks, but it had finally lifted. I did miss Dee of course I didbut I couldnt believe that was the real heart of the matter.
Lately Hugh had pushed me to see Dr. Ilg, one of the psychiatrists in his practice. Id refused on the grounds that she had a parrot in her office.
I knew that would drive him crazy. This wasnt the real reason, of courseI have nothing against peoples having parrots, except that they keep them in little cages. But I used it as a way of letting him know I wasnt taking the suggestion seriously. It was one of the rare times I didnt acquiesce to him.
"So shes got a parrot, so what?" hed said. "Youd like her." Probably I would, but I couldnt quite bring myself to go that farall that paddling around in the alphabet soup of ones childhood, scooping up letters, hoping to arrange them into enlightening sentences that would explain why things had turned out the way they had. It evoked a certain mutiny in me.
From The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. Copyright Sue Monk Kidd. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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