I think it was my parents who put me off marriage. When there doesn’t seem to be any love between your parents, actually that’s not strictly true – I think in a rather macabre way they did love each other. They just weren’t happy. Fights and arguments were a normal part of growing up in my family home. Nothing physical I might add – (not for lack of trying on my mums part but she just wasn’t a very good aim) - the verbal and emotional stuff was enough. A recurring disagreement was the lack of money for the lifestyle my mother wanted and that was, according to my mother, my father’s fault – even though my mother could have worked. Apparently she tired very easily! She seemed quite alright when she spent the day shopping or lunching with her friends who didn’t seem to work either. Dad would moan that she went out too much, spent too much money and didn’t think about where it came from. And Mum would yell that he never wanted to go out, was a tight wad and drank too much!
My father did drink a lot; he told me once that he hardly drank before he met my mother. “Living with her would turn anyone to drink”.
I wondered why they stayed together. I was curious – after all they looked very happy as they gazed into each other’s eyes in the wedding photo that used to sit above the piano (Until Mum took it down and dropped it on the tiled floor, and not accidentally I might add).
I was about fourteen and it was just after a row – a screaming match, dramatic and loud. Mum was cleaning up the mess she had made after throwing a plant pot at my dad. It had missed him but hit a picture on the wall – ironically a family photo that we had taken on holidays once. I’m not sure how we were all smiling in it, a mystery really. Anyway there was glass and soil and a mangled philodendron all over the carpet, and mum was on her hands and knees crying and sweeping up the soil. “Why don’t you just leave Dad?” I asked her and sniffing she replied “Oh its better the devil you know”….
I never understood at the time what she meant.
My sister left home at sixteen – she had a hairdressing apprenticeship and moved in with a couple of girlfriends. “I’m not putting up with that crap any longer. I’ll have my own money to pay the rent and anyway I’ll save on noise cancelling headphones and headache tablets!
I was stuck at home. I was in my last year of University but even with a part time job I couldn’t afford to move out and live independently so I tried to go out as much as possible – to places that didn’t cost money to go to. When I was home I would just shut my bedroom door and mostly study, eat and sleep, coming out occasionally, usually to get some more food. Taking off my headphones I would slowly open my bedroom door and listen before I ventured out.
I knew that all couples argued sometimes and it was normal, but not to be yelling and shouting at each other over trivial matters. I did say to my mum once that I couldn’t understand why they argued so much. “It wasn’t always like this. When you girls were little it was different” she told me (We must have been very young I was thinking because I couldn’t remember when it was ‘different’) “It just all changed – I changed and so did your father. We just grew apart and that’s all there is to it”.
I wasn’t going to continue the conversation. My mum had her lipped pursed so tight that nothing was going to prize them apart….and I was a bit over wanting to find out.
I loved going over to my Gran’s house. It was peaceful and quiet just like she was. She tried not to talk about my parents but every now and then we couldn’t help ourselves and we both vented. “They had a big argument yesterday Gran – you know that lovely plant you gave Mum for her birthday? Well it ended up being spread from one side of the lounge to the other”.
“Oh they are a disgrace, they really are. Like I’ve said before, I washed my hands of their lives a long time ago. I see them for birthdays and Christmas and that’s it! I’m not interested. I just wish yours and Christine’s lives had been more stable – I mean it’s been so unsettling for you both while growing up – it’s just terrible. As long as I see you and Christine that’s all that matters to me” she said as she hugged me.
“Oh well Gran, I don’t have long now and I can move out – although it hasn’t been too bad really – (just one long argument interspersed with a truce now and then!) Christine and I had each other and we let off steam when we needed to. I just think a miserable marriage is a waste of life”.
“Well I know you won’t act like that when you meet Mr Right – your parents’ marriage will have shown you what not to do!”
“I am never getting married. I’ve told you that Gran and I mean it. I’ll date guys but I want my independence, and I may even have children but if I stay single I know I can be happy – simple as that”
My sweet old Gran always looked sad when I told her that. I knew she thought I would be lonely on my own but after living in the household I was in; nothing was going to change my mind.
Sometimes I would try and think of all the times that my parents seemed really happy together. There were occasions but they were generally short lived. I remember one time when the four of us were out as a family having a picnic at the river. It was a beautiful day; we had spread the picnic rug and set out the food. Just as we were starting to eat my Dad said “Where’s the pickle?” to which my mother replied “I forgot it, so what?”
Now to me, number one, my dad could have eaten his sandwiches without pickle for once; it looked like a solidly filled and tasty sandwich. But my mother could just have easily replied “Oh how silly of me, sorry but I’m sure it will taste just as good without it”. End of subject and no argument. Of course it didn’t end there because it never did….”How could you forget the pickle? A sandwich is no good without the pickle!” and once again my mother added fuel by retorting “Next time you pack the picnic, I’d like to see that you lazy lump”….
Christine and I went to the playground and left them to it, our sandwiches in our hands, just happy to be out of earshot. When we returned, our dad was reading the newspaper and our mother was facing the opposite direction and having a sleep!
That’s how it was – most of the time. Christine and I were used to it but I knew I would never live like that.
I met Drew at the movies. I sat down in the dark, popcorn in one hand and drink in the other to watch a movie that I had no interest in really, but the week had been awful and when my Mum was yelling at my dad because there was no milk in the fridge for her cup of tea, and because he was selfish had used the last of it in the morning, I knew I needed to get out of the house.
Futuristic movies were the least of my favourite types of film but in the end it came down to this or ‘Curse of the vampires’ a movie so scary I would have been covering my eyes for most of it, or a love story that I had seen twice before, so it was this one, which was obviously popular with lots of other people as the theatre was packed. “Oh sorry” a male voice sounded as a long lean body slid into the chair next to me. He had bumped my arm and a whole pile of popcorn had spilled onto the floor. “Oh that’s ok” I replied, not meaning it. I was annoyed because I was starving and half of my dinner was on the dirty floral floor covering.
The male next to me was obviously uncomfortable sitting in a seat too small for his long legs as he wriggled and moved around quite a bit during the entire film. I couldn’t wait for it to end and I would be able to get away from him.
‘Well that was a waste of money’ I thought to myself as I quickly left the theatre, ‘What a rubbish movie’.
I stood outside in the fresh air deciding whether to get a coffee or go straight home when someone behind me spoke “Did you enjoy that?” Turning around I looked up into the very handsome face of a darkhaired man but before I could say that I hadn’t he continued “and I’m really sorry about your popcorn”.
“Oh it was you. That’s quite alright, accidents happen and I wasn’t that hungry anyway” I lied.
“Can I make it up to you and buy you a coffee?” he persisted.
I didn’t need coaxing and said I would love a coffee!
That was the beginning of my romance with Drew. He seemed to be everything I needed in a boyfriend. His personality was relaxed and easy going, so I could go from the house of sudden hostility and tension to the arms of calmness and peace. It worked out perfectly.
After a few months I had been introduced to Drew’s family and I could see where he got his inner peace from. His mother was a midwife – a gentle lady with one of those faces that just oozes calmness, soft skin and pale sparkling blue eyes. His father, Bill seemed like a happy chap. He talked nonstop, told ‘dad’ jokes and laughed a lot.
I knew the time would come when Drew asked if he could meet my family. I was very apprehensive. I dreaded the thought that mum and dead might start arguing.
The day came and I was on tender hooks - we were going to a restaurant and meeting Mum, Dad and Christine there. ‘Oh well there’s less chance of them arguing there than at home’ I mistakenly thought.
They were sitting at the table when Drew and I walked into an Italian restaurant, loud and busy. Introductions were made and we sat down. I felt nervous and looked at Christine a couple of times and I knew she understood.
Half way through the main course I could sense ‘something’, like impending doom! I looked at Drew and smiled and he squeezed my hand under the table. He seemed very comfortable and at ease.
“’nother bottle then?” asked my dad “After all it is an Italian restaurant….”
“So!” came my mother’s sharp tongue “Doesn’t mean you have to drink like you’re Vincenzo from next door”.
“I’m just saying let’s have another drink”
“And I’m just saying I think we’ve had enough, well you specifically”.
“This very special occasion is very special! – we’re meeting Lidia’s boyfriend for the first time, thass special” he drunkenly said
“And it isn’t special for Drew to see you drunk”
“I will drink ‘smuch as I like” he continued, glaring at his wife.”Yer not my mother”
“No because if was I would have drowned you at birth!”
Everyone looked at Gloria shocked at what she said. “Well not drowned you but…..” she said feeling awkward now.
Drew was silent, not knowing where to look and definitely not knowing what to say, until…
“Umm I have an early start tomorrow, so I might go now. Thank you so much for dinner. It was delicious and so nice to meet you all”. He grabbed Lidia’s hand and turning to Christine asked if she would like a lift home too.
“Oh yes please” she answered enthusiastically.
The three of them scurried out of the restaurant, not knowing how the evening would end.
They drove in silence until the stillness was broken by Lidia “I’m sorry about that Drew- it was embarrassing.
“Oh they’re ok” Drew said magnanimously “It’s probably just the alcohol”.
Drew didn’t bring the evening up again – and Lidia was adamant that she would never discuss it. “I’m just not bringing him around again” she told her sister. “It’s too stressful for me”.
Lidia kept her word about not bringing Drew back to her house but he kept asking how her parents were and how he hadn’t seen them in ages! When he picked her up she was always waiting out the front and told him that her parents weren’t home. She did feel quite guilty about it as her Mum and Dad really liked him and Gloria had told her to ‘hang on to that one Lidia, he‘s a gem!’…
Autumn turned to winter and Lidia and Drew still going out together, were getting serious. Drew talked about marriage and spending the future with ‘the girl of his dreams’. He tried to get more out of Lidia on the subject but she didn’t want to hurt him so managed to change the subject very quickly each time.” ‘One of these days I’ll tell Drew’ she thought.
Drew couldn’t read the ‘I’m never getting married sign’ because one cold and rainy night as they sat opposite each other in a warm and busy burger bar he popped the question.
“Umm Lidia, I’ve wanted to ask for a while now and I can’t leave it longer” he said sheepishly, reaching for her hand.
“Oh dear” she thought, and then decided some humour might be good “Yes Drew I’ll have onions and double cheese thank you!”
“Ha ha - very funny.” He laughed. What I would really like to know is if you will marry me Lidia? We don’t have to get married straight away but I would like to get engaged as soon as you say ‘yes’! Lidia’s mind was awash with thought of what she would say. Here was a man who she dearly loved but didn’t want to ruin the relationship by getting married. She needed time to rehearse what she would say.
“Drew” she began “I do love you, I really do but can I just think about it for a day or two. I know that sounds odd but it’s such a big commitment”.
“Of course you can. I understand (but he really didn’t) You will want to talk it over with your mum, like all girls supposedly do. When you want to say ‘yes I’ll be waiting” he told.
‘Why would I want to talk to my mum’ she thought as he dropped her off home ‘I’m not mentioning it to her – it’s Gran I want to talk to’
In the late afternoon the following day, dark clouds had been gathering since morning and a strong wind blew the first downpour of rain towards Lidia as she stood and knocked on her Gran’s door. She had gotten quite wet running from the car to the front of the house and was shaking her umbrella vigorously when the door opened and Lidia looked at the soft face of her confident.
“You love him don’t you” Gran asked her granddaughter.
“Oh yes dearly” she replied “I just don’t want it all to change and for arguments to develop later on”.
“Not all couple are like your mum and dad Lidia – I’ve told you that. Did you ever see or hear Grandad and I arguing?”
“No I didn’t Gran, but did you argue?”
“We had the usual little tiffs, but that was it. We were very content with what we had. Your mother has always been argumentative and a little unstable if you ask me, and she’s my daughter. Don’t listen when she says they started off happily married – they argued from the word go – we even warned your dad but he was besotted with Gloria. Do you argue with Drew?”
“Not much, we have disagreements but usually laugh about them. He’s so laid back and relaxed. I’m not sure he knows how to get cross or have an argument to be honest!”
“Well there’s your answer Lidia. If you’ve determined what you want out of a marriage and a husband and feel confident in your choice of man and of saying ‘yes’ then that’s all that matter. Don’t let your parent’s relationship spoil yours love” she told her as she hugged her.
“Thank you for making me s
ee sense Gran. Love you” she yelled at the little old lady standing in the door way as Lidia ran in the rain back to her car.
She pulled up outside Drew’s house and remembering her umbrella was still at her Gran’s made a dash towards his house but before she reached it something made her stop – right there in the pouring rain, wind howling and lightning bolts flashing way off in the distance, she stood as big droplets fell on her head and face. “Now I’m one hundred percent sure of this aren’t I” she said out loud “I love Drew and he loves me. We won’t be like my parents, we will be just us. Ok I’m ready now ”she told herself dripping wet and now freezing cold but now knowing this was what she wanted.