Continued from Decisions

And so it was that Yry returned briefly to West Virginia to gather up her babe, say her thank-yous and good-byes to Eloise and Jim, and return to the trap she’d been so determined to escape. Now, though, the baby distracted her from failed hopes and dreams. There was more to live for than “physical exercise which brings joy and satisfaction of mental and spiritual nature.” She would return to the west when the time was right.

Despite the circumstances, motherhood thrilled her. She’d always wanted a child—a piece of herself that would reflect the unconditional love that she’d yearned for in her own life; and this little being was an enduring legacy of her deep love for Dallas. She was irrevocably tied to him now, even if he didn’t understand or acknowledge that fact. Determined to raise a strong and healthy child, she foreswore prepared baby food, opting instead to grind her own meals for the baby. She sewed tiny tops and bottoms and dresses with bric-a-brac. She even made a toasty-warm, woolen coat for Joan. Now she daydreamed about the day her child would first straddle a horse. She kept copious notes for the baby book, recording weight and size, and noting each developmental step: first smile, first fingernail clipping, first fever, first successful, unassisted roll-over, first attempt to crawl, then to stand, then to walk.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how easily her parents had embraced Joan. The baby had drawn her closer to her mother. In a moment of rare confidentiality, Norah revealed her own youthful scandal; Mom got her own shock when she learned that her very upstanding and conventional parents had never been officially married. Norah had fled an arranged Catholic marriage to a domineering older man whom, after the vows she discovered, had venereal disease. This explained, perhaps, Norah’s phobic fastidiousness—her constant penchant to wash and disinfect everything from door knobs to the telephone receiver.

Herman was besotted by his grandchild. Tossing dignity to the wind he’d come home from the office and immediately collapse to the floor, mindless of damage to the knees of his business trousers. He’d mime and cajole and coax giggles and screams of joy from the baby. Yry stuffed back little jabs of jealousy at how her father doted on Joan, enduring drool and spittle and completely abandoning dignity. Herman was home more now, traveling less, and able to enjoy the luxury of being fully engaged in the baby’s progress. How different her life might have been if she’d been that important to him when she was a baby.

Fall broke the shimmering heat of New York City. The trees in the park began their seasonal wardrobe change. Yry’s time evaporated in the endless and mindless tasks of grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, ironing, and meal preparation. Her refuge, once again, was the park. Pushing the pram with Joan tucked inside and dropping peanuts for the squirrels as she went, she pondered the future, wondering how soon she could make the transition back to Wyoming.