Excerpt of The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
(Page 2 of 4)
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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
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.