How My Wife to Be Threw Herself Out of Her Mother’s House.
June 27, 2009
A while back, at David’s request, I told the story of how I met my wife, hugely embarrassing as the story is. I promised to tell the story of how she threw herself out of her house when she turned 18 and didn’t speak to her mother for a year.
After I had been going out with my wife to be, she told me that she was going to San Francisco to spend time with her favorite older brother, a bohemian artist whom she idolized at the time. (In the long run, things did not go especially well for him, but that’s another story.)
I think she was not sure she wanted to see me any more, so she left the impression she might not be coming back to Los Angeles. However, I sometimes drove “accidentally” across the route I knew she walked to and from high school, and sure enough I one day saw her walking home from high school and stopped to talk to her, telling her I had accidentally driven that way. I learned that without telling me, she had returned home from San Francisco.
I convinced her to go out with me again.
I began to spend time at her house with my wife to be and her mother. I worked diligently at sucking up to her mother. It was not easy to do for two reasons:
1. Her mother was a very difficult and insecure person.
2. My wife to be, now in adolescence, had begun the difficult process of finding and expressing her own individuality as a person.
Her mother had many admirable qualities. After her divorce, working as a secretary, she had, by herself raised and supported five children. She was a splendid cook and mistress of many other household skills, which she taught to my wife.
However, her mother was full of resentments and grievances. Just as I am the oldest of my parents’ five children, my wife is the youngest of her parents’ five children.
Each of my wife’s siblings had left the nest already, not always on the friendliest of terms, leaving their mother feeling angry, unappreciated, and lonely. As my wife had been a very obedient and unchallenging child, her mother had come to depend on her, the youngest of the five children, for a feeling of security and success as a parent.
Also, her mother had a bit of a drinking problem. I don’t think she was an alcoholic, but she tended to drink more than she should and usually became more and more angry as she became intoxicated.
Often I would have dinner with my wife to be and her mother. Her mother was a splendid cook, and tended to interpret people eating and appreciating her food as appreciating her, so she would offer me more and more food.
At these dinners, my wife to be would offer some innocent opinion and her mother would take serious exception and they would bicker and snarl at each other as I sat in uncomfortable silence.
A focus point of these arguments became my wife to be’s black pants. These events occurred before the word “hippie” came into wide usage, so her mother used the word “beatnik” to describe depraved children rebelling against their parents’ values. The black pants symbolized in her mind how her daughter was rejecting her values, much as children today reject their parents’ values with piercings and tattoos.
(Random Granddaughter gets to wear transfer tattoos that wash off after a few days. I don’t know if this little indulgence by the mommies is meant to inoculate her against getting real tattoos when she gets a little older. I don’t know if Anne Elise will reject them or end up with her body covered over every square inch of skin with real tattoos by the time she is 15.
On the other hand, I don’t know if there is a similar way the mommies can let her have “pretend” piercings in her nose or such now.)
As my future wife neared the age of 18, I helped her buy a Citroen (the cars my family adopted at the time following the lead of my eccentric uncle Donald), and began teaching her to drive. I don’t remember the exact sequence of circumstances that precipitated the crisis. It involved her getting a “learners’ permit” to prepare for taking her drivers’ test. She did not have auto insurance yet. Her mother refused to let her get a learner’s permit.
Up until that point, I had been a quiet and polite observer to many scenes of bickering and argument, desperately trying not to alienate her mother. As this disagreement escalated into hysterics, I lost it. I told her mother what I thought of her. Finally, we stormed out of her mother’s house. At that time, I was still living at home with my mother.
(I had flunked out of college at the University of California at Berkeley a couple of years earlier and was attending a community college in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles to restart my college career in the college equivalent of kindergarten. Also, my father had died recently, so I was the “head” of my broken and incoherent family.)
With no other place to go, I took my wife to be to my mother’s house. I explained the situation to my mother and asked if my wife to be could stay at our place until the situation was sorted out. My mother, always complaisant agreed.
We were sitting around awkwardly a couple of hours later, when there was a furious pounding on my door. I opened it to see Mrs. Random’s mother and one of her brothers, L. L had just left the navy. He was always the “responsible” one in her family, eventually becoming a corporate lawyer.
At this time her mother demanded that Mrs. Random come home. She refused. At this point her brother seized her and began dragging her out of the house kicking and screaming. I remember thinking (in a absurd and ridiculous fashion) This is just like a scene from an overwrought Italian movie.