I yearned for the type of home life I saw around me. I wanted a home and a family like Carol's, where children were fed neat snacks on pretty plates. I longed to lift a lovely vase of flowers and see a smiling reflection. I wanted to look around me and see a beautiful home to match the shining furniture. I wanted a clean car and a real garage. I wanted a groovy, smartly dressed mom. I wanted a handsome dad who wore a tie to work. I wanted white shag carpeting. I yearned for a manicured lawn where children could play quietly behind a white picket fence.
I adored my parents. I wouldn’t have traded my family for Jill’s or anybody else’s, but I believed that, because our house didn’t look like others, we were different and somehow wrong. I knew I didn’t measure up: What I longed for most of all was a Pledge-polished reflection that was worth a smile.
My heart ached for beauty and order. I couldn't wait to grow up and have a house of my own. I was sure that when I got to be a mom, things were going to be perfect. I confided my dreams with my favorite stuffed duck, Waltzing Matilda. She and I spent my birthday money that year on a box of Grape Nuts and practiced preparing neatly served snacks on little sage-green Melmac plates and cups to my baby dolls out in the playhouse every day.
Eventually I got too old for such things. Waltzing Matilda retired to the Easter basket from whence she came and lived out the rest of her days somewhere in the clutter on the top shelf of my closet. My dad, of course, filled the playhouse with more stuff.
Though I was too old to pretend, I never stopped playing house, and I clung tightly to my secret ideals. Throughout my teen years I diligently honed my skills at cooking, baking, sewing and handcrafts. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, Momma was blind and bed-ridden. She had taught me everything she could, so mostly, I learned by doing. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, my mom passed away.