Archive for November, 2007



Alayne wanted me to love her intensely. “I found you in a rosebush” she often reminded me, “and gave you to your mother.” I believed her absolutely though sometimes I wondered why, if I really was her angel child, she didn’t keep me for herself when she had the chance. Of course, that wasn’t a question I was supposed to ask and so, angel child that I was, I didn’t. We never got into who put me in the rosebush or whether I was supposed to have been a flower that miraculously bloomed into a baby but it suited Alayne to have had such an experience and it pleased me to have had so unlikely a debut. Hearing this probably annoyed the hell out of my mother and the time came, perhaps after I stopped believing in Santa-Claus, when Alayne no longer told her magical story although she continued to refer to herself as my “other mother”. Like my mother and her friends Alayne was far more gorgeous and glamorous than the average husband required of a wife although for Lyman, her husband (a connoisseur of art, antiques and fine books not to mention women), she was probably just the ticket.

They lived with their miniature schnauzer, first Jeep then Buttons on Park Avenue, — the upper 70’ a spacious apartment filled with paintings, rare books and some priceless treasures I had to be careful not to touch or, more likely as I skipped by, jiggle. She held court of a morning in the master bed of the master bedroom where,  however, the master did not sleep. He camped out in his library and possibly paid visits when he was of a mind to enjoy the conjugal rights for which he was paying so dearly. (Yes, I know it’s none of my business but who wouldn’ t like to know?) When I visited overnight I was the one who slept in the library and Lyman went to his club. Or so I now reason because if he ever tucked in for the entire night next to his luscious wife why wasn’t he around early the following morning?

The walls and nearly invisible closets that lined each side of the bedroom were covered in a pale blue silk moiré. The bed and headboard were upholstered in blue satin, and the sheets were ivory satin between which Alayne was, mornings, magnificently ensconced wearing an embroidered, beribboned bedjacket. Over her lap was an enormous bedtray with curving cabriole legs and cubbyholes for the mail and newspapers. There would be a softboiled egg in a china eggcup, toast and coffee.

She would send the dog to stand in the corner for some unknown failure to obey the rules. After a while she would whisper, “if there’s a little dog in this room who would like to say he’s sorry he can come here now and ask for forgiveness..” And little Jeepor Buttons, would pad over looking crestfallen, put his paws on the bed with his little head between them and wait to be absolved and fed a bit of toast.

Her dressing room was lined with mirrored closets and a large round mirror was attached to the back of a swivel chair in front of the long, mirrored vanity so that she could see her face and hair from every angle.

When I was about six Alayne went to an Episcopal orphanage to adopt Rosemary (a name immediately changed to Barbara), a little girl about my age –who, in the pictures I have, is beautiful and looks as if she’s about to cry. Alayne transformed the maid’s room, a small cell near the kitchen with one high window and a tiny attached bathroom, into a bedroom for her. We were to be friends and, I realized at dinner one evening when we were having a spelling bee, competitors. When I realized that I was being shown off to Barbara’s belittlement I stopped playing but it wasn’t soon enough.

After a year Alayne sent Barbara/Rosemary back to the orphanage.

She wasn’t me.

A New Life



No Rings on My Fingers


Jewelry is not my thing especially when it comes to rings. Not only are they a cinch to misplace, they get in my way when I’m at the sink, in the shower or out in the garden which is why I can’t find them for the week following. Although at present my hands are naked, they have been clothed with a ring or two along the runway of my exotic life and could be still if there were a reason to pluck one from the safety deposit box where I have placed treasures, including several knock-your-eye-out finger encirclements, left to me by my mother.

When he was my fiancé, my first husband, the eventual father of my four children presented me with a small box and ring within. The stone was sallow and loose despite the four prongs that held it down and it glittered darkly. In fact, it was a fake, a stand in for the real thing, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. I wore it back to college and, for a while, pretended it was a diamond in the same way I pretended almost everything. In defense of my then self—a now unfathomable person— she lived, as did many others of that time, in the world of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ hoping to please everyone, and thus never got the hang of pleasing herself. As that young woman I should love the young man who pursues me relentlessly, who loves me or says he does, whose friends say he does, whose brothers, aunts and uncles are eager for us to plight our troth, whose future mother-in-law, my mother, says to me when I want to break up with him,

“How could you do such a thing to that poor orphan? He loves you.”

Ergo I should love him, shouldn’t I? It suits everyone. Approval abounds. And then in the winter before the marriage planned for August I go all the way with him.

What? Do you mean you had sex?

Sort of and having performed this act not only should I love him but also I must love him otherwise how could I have done that? And now I had to marry him.

A month later the stand-in ring was discarded in favor of a 2.5 carat round cut diamond with diamond baguettes on the sides mounted in platinum. On my thin finger it was top heavy owing partly to its size and partly to the setting which was placed high up in a way I considered ostentatious; light came from underneath the stone; it floated in space rather as if it was on display. I was appreciative but embarrassed. I would have preferred something more modest. I disliked being set apart, longed to be exactly like everyone else but I pretended I was thrilled especially since the sight of mine was usually greeted with, “What a rock!” When I told my mother what I really thought—that it was too showy, she said, “You’re crazy,” According to her there was no such thing.

Poor girl—possessor of a lovely diamond ring not exactly to her taste. Fortunately I had a kind of distance toward myself. I knew this wasn’t something to obsess about but it was a better focus than looking toward the future when I was set to marry a man who bored me to tears, slumped like a rag doll when he sat down, wasn’t funny or a great dancer, didn’t give me the time of my life and nearly always failed to hold his end up in a conversation. Because he was so silent and unresponsive I believed he must be very wise. Certainly he seldom agreed with me or found anything I had to say of interest and I concluded therefore he possessed superior intelligence. Also I thought at the very least we would have a great sex life though I can’t say why and, of course, I was wrong.

I knew I couldn’t make it to August when mother said she planned to tie a ribbon on every blade of grass and where certain people related to my stepfather would be in attendance. My stepfather said he’d rather give me the ten thousand dollars my wedding would cost—please note this was the 50’s—and suggested we elope. Also I thought I might be pregnant. We took off for a three-night, two-day honeymoon in Williamsburg, Virginia.

I got my period as we were saying “I do.” but it didn’t matter—I had to marry him because we’d slept together. I had to be as true as possible to my standards—a rigid set of commandments constructed with the help of nuns, fundamentalist relatives, my mother and the romantic movies of Hollywood where the smiling bride on her way down the aisle at fade-out was almost always a virgin, madly in love and headed for bliss.

None of it described me and I never got the ten thousand dollars either.

The first glimmer of wondering, what did he pursue me for? entered my mind when he asked for twin beds at the hotel. Later I realized he wasn’t going to kiss me goodnight—I was, after all, bleeding, but he did, finally, without enthusiasm. He played eighteen holes of golf both mornings, then daily we had lunch, saw the sights, took a few pictures, had dinner, a sexless night, no cuddling, and I returned home the same untried near virgin I’d been before except now I had two rings, the newest a plain, slender platinum band.

Those rings accompanied me through twenty years of marriage though I only wore the diamond when I got dressed up, put on contact lens, mascara and heels and went somewhere other than the schools or supermarket. I soon loved my “rock,” forgot about size and setting and often soaked it in ammonia and water to remove residue and enhance its brilliant sparkle. Alas, the ring had to go when following the divorce and after the last child graduated from high school I was forced by my ex to sell the house, half of which was mine, and needed money for fixing up my co-op. It paid for five ceiling fans, and a new kitchen built on the cheap. I should have kept the ring. Its plain consort still hangs around in my jewelry box.

My second fiancé did not burden me with a floating diamond, a down-to-earth sapphire or for that matter an engagement ring of any description. When another ring of importance was placed on my finger it was a wide wedding band of gold and platinum. Handsome. I picked it out myself, by myself and paid for it, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. Several years later the ring was so tight I doubted I could get it off—and once I did with the help of Vaseline and my husband’s determined twisting—it was unwise ever to put it back. As for a replacement, it would never occur to him to buy one and, don’t look at me, I’ve been there, done that.

The image