Continued from But what of my origins?
Mother described a confining relationship in which dinner was to be ready, delicious, and piping hot no matter what time Sidney arrived home from work. I am so ignorant of this father, that I do not even know what his work entailed. I am picturing him in retail sales. Don’t ask me why. As mother described the situation to me, what Sidney expected of marriage was a mother with a vagina. My mother was willing and able to provide the later, but indignant by the first expectation.
Barely a month after the marriage, just before the New York City heat bloomed, mother prepared an extravagant dinner for Sidney. She’d scrapped and saved for two weeks to augment her shopping budget for a pair of T-bone steaks and a nice bottle of wine. The evening got off to a bad start because, as usual, Sidney was late getting home. The vegetables were overcooked, and the meat not yet cooked because mother didn’t want to risk ruining the expensive meat. Sidney fumed and pouted while mother quickly broiled the steaks, further heating the small apartment.
After dinner, mother brought out a custard that she’d prepared according to her mother-in-law’s recipe. Sidney had already pushed away from the table and marched into the living room to hide behind the sprawl of the evening newspaper. He growled that her damned radio program was too loud. She scurried back into the kitchen to turn off the serialized radio drama that kept her company during her time alone in the apartment.
The magical evening that she’d envisioned evaporated in more acrimony. Exasperated by the way the evening was evolving, she spilled the reason for her special efforts.
Sidney’s sharp response: “Do you really think we should be having a child when we clearly aren’t compatible?”
Stunned, she wondered just what he was alluding to. It was a bit late to debate the merits of having a child at this point. Taking a few minutes to compose her thoughts, she responded.
“Sidney, marriage is not something that happens magically when a priest or rabbi pronounces some words over you. It takes time—years of sharing, caring, and trying to please each other and meeting each other halfway to work things out.”
Three months into the marriage, her pregnancy was confirmed. Several days of relative calm would invariably erupt in another round of accusations and complaints: her cooking was killing him, she was spending all his money (this despite the monthly stipend that her father pitched in to pay for Joan’s expenses), she was rude to his friends. They traded insults, and each threatened to leave, but argued over who would get the apartment.
One July night he became a raging bull. Hurling insults, he pulled his mattress and bedding through the apartment to the spare bedroom which housed Yry’s books and Joan’s toys. He screamed profanity and lobbed things into the hallway; the neighbors grew concerned. Then he demanded proof that the baby in her belly was his.
Joan tiptoed out of her room, white-faced and solemn. Neither mother nor daughter could sleep so they curled up together in Joan’s bed and read for an hour or so and stayed together the entire night. Yry was unsure of what danger lurked behind Sidney’s violent mood swings and paranoia.
The next morning, Sidney’s mother called and asked why she hadn’t seen Yry and Joan lately. Yry confessed all that had transpired during the past few weeks. Even Sidney’s parents agreed that, given these conditions so early in the marriage, there was no hope of it lasting.