Friday, March 18, 2011

What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?

“I know you don’t realize it now, but background becomes very important in a relationship. It could really come between you.”
I shrugged off the advice. What did my mother know anyway? She’d lived in Rochester her whole life, married a man from Rochester, raised kids in Rochester. All in an era when it was expected for women to really make something of herself; create an equal partnership with someone from their class, their upbringing, their morals and values. I grew up knowing I’d marry someone just like she did. My husband’s parents and my parents would be great friends. Our moms would meet for coffee in our hometown. Our dads would go golfing.

And then I met TC. And he broke every expectation I had for a partner. Certain things became important that I never knew I needed. He turned into my best friend. The best advice giver. My protector. My clown. My head-over-heels love affair. He grew up in the antithesis of my household. His parents were both addicts in different ways. His mom would fall asleep on the couch in the afternoon when he was 3 and 4 years old, and leave him to make dinner for himself. His dad would drink too much and hit his mother. His mother disappeared for a few years, and then came back. All this was happening while I sat at a clean kitchen table in suburbia and was made to drink my milk before homework and an early bedtime.

Yesterday I met his mother. He loves her. Of course he does. But I can not help but listen to her talk and judge her based on the stories that I know. “When TC was little, he got scarlet fever. And when I took him to the emergency room, they said, ‘Why did you wait so long to bring him in?! Why didn’t you bring him in at the first signs?!’ As if I would wait to bring my sick son to the emergency room!” But I knew that she probably had. I hated her for it. I smiled at all of her stories, her non stop stories, and acted interested when she went on and on about horror movies. She pestered the waitress for Coors Lite. No Coors? Michelob Ultra. And make sure it’s VERY cold! Is this cold? Did you pull it from the bottom?

Suddenly I pictured myself years from now. At a small, dirty house in Colorado with this woman at Christmas time. Heavy drinking. Smiling along with her stories. “You seen the Exorcist? I own it.” My holidays. My holidays that are usually so bright and cheerful and involve omelets and stockings and my mother apologizing for always giving me something corny like a Yo Yo because, “I just can’t help it.” These things are important to me. How can I give this up?

I know you don’t realize it now, but background becomes very important in a relationship. I haven’t talked to him about it. I don’t know that I will. Somewhere along the line, background became important. I just can’t force myself to look at it yet.

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