For the first time ever, Martina raised her voice and said, “this isn’t about YOU, mother. It’s about me. It’s about what I want…not what you want, or what you think is going to be shameful. You can posture all you want, but I am eighteen and I can make my own decisions now. I will decide what I wear, what I do, where I go, if I go to college, and where I go to college.”
Later that evening, mother spoke with father and pleaded with him to dissuade Martina. “She has these grandiose ideas, and she’s an innocent. She knows nothing of the world outside ours. That Callie creature started all this, and she is most certainly behind Martina’s sudden defiance.”
Father said, “we’ve talked about this before. Let her go to college, and I can almost promise you that she will be back home within the first month. If you try to stop her, she will resent you for the rest of her life, but if you support her, she will be grateful that you afforded the opportunity.”
“But what will all of our friends say?” mother asked. “I mean…Community College? How embarrassing is it going to be to tell them that our high society little girl is going to be mingling with the ‘great unwashed’?” Father spun around and said, “don’t you and your friends volunteer at homeless shelters every Thanksgiving? I would call that mingling with, as you so delicately put it, ‘the great unwashed’.” Mother sat down and said, “yes, that’s true, but this is different and is going to be so very difficult.”
Father said, “yes, it is, but we must support her. Let her come out of her shell a bit. Let her blossom. She will fail, as I said, but let’s at least give her the chance.”
Mother and father gave Martina their approval, and offered disingenuous encouragement. “You will be living at home while you attend this place, yes?” Mother asked. Martina said, “no. I’m going to live in an apartment. I want to experience real college life.”
Momentarily forgetting herself, mother said, “to do that, you would have to go to a real college.” Martina’s mother wasn’t the only one who could give icy cold stares. “It is a real college,” Martina said.
Mother quickly apologized and asked if she could help pack her belongings. “As long as you don’t try to tell me what I can and can’t take,” Martina said, “yes, you may.”
Mother asked if she had given any thought as to what classes she wanted to take. She seemed to soften a bit when Martina sat down and almost beaming, said, “anything. Everything. I want to know how it feels to sit in a big room, listening to a professor whose sole job is to teach us what the real world is like. I want to experience how it feels to be treated like an adult who could someday, possibly change the world. Do you know what I mean?”
Mother smiled and acquiesced. “No. I don’t know what you mean. All I’ve ever known, just as you, are governesses and etiquette and how to take my place in society.”
Martina asked, “did you ever think about what your life might have been like if you had gone to college instead of getting married, and just becoming a rich man’s wife?” Mother surprised Martina when she said, “to tell you the truth, no. Being the wife of a successful man is very important, and your father has been very good to me. I have a wonderful life, and that is all I have ever wanted for you.
“But,” said Martina. “Didn’t you ever want more?”
Mother smiled and said, “yes, I did. When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to be a prima ballerina assoluta.” Surprised, Martina said, “you never told me that. What is it?” Mother said, “it’s a title awarded to the most notable female ballerinas. It’s a rare honor.”
When Martina asked what happened, mother, in a soft voice that Martina had never heard, said, “I grew too tall.”
Martina said, “you can be too tall to be a ballerina?” Mother said, “yes. I was already 5′ 10″ when I was 14. My teacher said it would be difficult to find a male partner, who would have to be at least 6′ 3″, so I was cut from the class.” She looked at her feet and Martina saw a look of sadness when she said, “I still have my shoes…somewhere.”
Mother suddenly began to look a little more human to Martina. She had everything anyone could possibly want, but she once had a dream. A dream that was never realized, and if that dream left a hole inside her, she had filled it with money, social status, and patched it with acceptance.
To be continued_________________________