Have you ever sat, & wished you were living someone else's life.
Not necessarily a particular person's life. Just another life, with different griefs or joys.
In dark times I have. The more I learn of other's lives though, the more I am glad I have the 'Devil I know'.
I wish to write about some of the lives I have learnt about. I am sure there are many gaps to the stories, but they never fail to interest me.
She was born to Irish Catholic parents, a longed for girl, after 3 sons.
She was very fair of face, tending to soft, pretty, plumpness, & her curly red/gold hair was her mother's delight.
As she grew, she was seeped in the Catholic religion. She was instructed long & hard, about the 'duties' of being a 'good girl'. She was told her brothers could go to University if they wished, but she could not. She was a girl, after all, & education was not seen as a priority for a girl, who was expected to marry, & do her wifely duties, & bear the next generation of good Catholic children.
Her parents lived in a suburb filled with Catholic neighbours. Their circumstance was considered working class, her father having a mediocre job, doing menial work. Her mother toiled in the home, & taught her daughter that the males were waited upon. It fell to daughters to lay the table, do the dishes, make the beds.
Since she was the only daughter, it became her lot, to occasionally cook, when her mother was unwell. Her task to keep the house clean, & always, always, attend church. School.... not so important.
Which was a shame, because Red/gold had a very bright mind, & was very good at school. Much cleverer than her brothers. Of course, she was a girl, so that didn't count.
When the red/gold haired daughter became engaged at 19 to a good & pious Catholic lad, all seemed perfect in her life.
Fate intervened, & the good & pious lad was killed in an accident. After the grief, reality set in. Our heroine was getting older. Most of the 'good boys' were taken. She was in danger of being left on the shelf. Perhaps going stale.
At this point in her life, along comes a boisterous loud irreverant young man. He sweeps her off her feet- in bitter hindsight she refers to it as her 'rebound'. He takes her to meet his family. His brothers, one a minister of Another Religion. Equally as pious as her first fiance, but in a different church. She realises with shock, that when her mother-in-law-to-be, introduces her to friends, she is very apologetic for the fact that our red/gold girl is a Catholic!
The fact that this news is recieved in shocked intakes of breath is such a surprise to our red/gold girl. Her own parents are not happy when they learn she is going to marry the boisterous loud young man. They warn her of dire consequences.
Boisterous young man agrees to any 'Issue' being raised in the Catholic religion. Red/gold girl is happily pregnant before too long. Her mother is unwell again, but red/gold girl consults the Doctor who says her mother is just 'lazy'. Red/gold daughter gives her mother a good 'talking to'. She is 6 months pregnant, & needs her mother to be up & about.
Before red/gold's daughter is born, her mother is dead. She had undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. It killed her. Red/gold daughter is filled with guilt, as well as grief. She sees it in part as her fault, for not being married to a Catholic. For daring to have married a non-Catholic. She turns more & more to the Catholic church.
Her daughter is going to be raised a good Catholic girl too. After 3 years, red/gold is pregnant again. She has become very close to her mother-in-law, who has no daughters of her own.
Before red/gold's son is born, her father dies, suddenly, from a heart attack. Red/gold resolves she will have no more children. She never told me how she squared this with her guilt ridden Catholic thoughts at that stage of her life.
Time passes, & our red/gold wife travels a lot with her boisterous husband. She lives the perfect life. The life of a Norman Rockwell painting, perhaps. Picture perfect. Church every Sunday- never mind that Boisterous never attends. There are graces said before each & every meal. The table is always set to perfection.
Years later, her daughter is to scream at her, "You wanted us to live the picture of the perfect life, with all the rotten & real hidden underneath!"
Red/gold is a pillar of her church. She does the flowers, dresses the altar, launders the linens. Her children are dressed up all the time. Her daughter stresses that her name is the full version & no nicknames will do!
Boisterous & Red/gold live a very busy social life. A group of friends who spend time together on evenings out, barbeques, parties. Red/gold gets a job she likes, & all seems truly perfect in her life.
One night Boisterous tells Red/gold he is leaving her, for her best friend. He moves out, & the whole world of Red/gold shatters. She learns that all her friends had known of the secret affair. She stays home & cries day & night. She self medicates on whole casks of wine, every night. She staggers through her days. No priest comes near her. No person from the Church comes to offer comfort. One of her brothers goes & demands that the priest go to visit Red/gold. She told me he stuttered, & muttered. Would not look her in the eye. He had nothing to say, was hideously embarrassed, & couldn't wait to make his escape, & get out of her house.
As the picture shattered, all the pieces fell away. The daughter got rebellious, would not study. Slept with a very strange young man, became pregnant at 16. Gave birth to a son, that the parents of the young man wanted to keep. Red/gold saw it all as punishment for not being a good enough Catholic. She would not allow her daughter to keep the baby, now would she allow the boy's parents to have him, nor allow the girl to marry the boy.
Red/gold felt she couldn't let the baby ruin her daughter's life.
Red/gold's son stole cars, became the neighbourhood rebel. Got into trouble with police. Red/gold begged the father to help her. His reaction was to come home with pyjamas in hand, after 6 months, crying because his new girlfriend had been caught in bed with yet another lover.
Red/gold allowed him to live in the house. The burning hatred was what surrounded the shattered 'perfection' now.
Boisterous left yet again, the girlfriend had returned from whereever. He went running when she beckoned. She told the daughter of Red/gold that had she been around, the baby would never have been adopted. I was so shocked when Red/gold told me that part, I wanted to cry. Tears were in my eyes, & I felt the 'other woman' to be truly evil & wicked.
Red/gold still had the idea that she had to be a good Catholic. She told me no matter how hard she tried, she could never shake off those chains.
When Boisterous was going to another country, to meet the other woman's family, he asked Red/gold to collect a prescription, along with a letter for Customs, for penile injections for him to take with him! She did as he asked. I waited in the car, as she collected the script & letter, incredulous, that she could do that. I told her I would probably have ripped up the letter, the script. She told me she wished she could, but the Catholic in her could not.
Red/gold's daughter got married. The daughter used her mother, treated her with contempt, took her money, & is now totally estranged. The son lives at home, paying minimal board, & has an older, divorced woman for a girlfriend.
Red/gold fears her daughter will never be able to have children now. That was the latest news she had before communication broke down. It all seems too sad. The daughter married an only son, with 5 sisters. All the ripples that spread from one life.
I couldn't stand in judgement of my friend. I could only feel glad I do not have to walk in her shoes.
Ben Harper, Gold to Me.