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Who’s Marjorie?

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I once knew a woman named Marjorie. Actually, I knew her when she was younger. We sort of grew up together, but our friendship gradually faded like most young relationships do. However, over the years we have run into each other, or I kept tabs on her whereabouts through mutual friends or acquaintances.



When she was young, she was active and full of dreams. I remember times when the nuns in our Catholic school would scold her for talking too much or not sitting still. She always had a “D” or “F” in conduct. She frequently spoke of wanting to be a singer, a writer, a school teacher, a wife and mother. She once told me that she knew that she would do something great in her life. She never really thought of limitations, just a lot of possibilities. As she got older, though, the realities of her situation seemed to take their toll.



Most of the families in my young world were the same, but Marjorie’s life was different from mine. Her mom was a bit ahead of her time … a divorced, single, working mother raising two kids on her own. This was not too fashionable in the late sixties and early seventies. Her mom loved beer and high balls. She wore bright red lipstick and swore. She wasn’t like any of the other moms I knew. Although Marjorie never spoke of her mother’s drinking when we were younger, I intuitively knew it was something she was embarrassed about. I guess in retrospect her mother’s drinking set the stage for some of the choices Marjorie made in her life.



It was after grade school that we lost touch, but I heard through the grapevine that she had made her way through the late seventies and early eighties like most of us. She spent her time taking classes, dancing the night away at the local disco and dating a string of loser boyfriends who didn’t treat her well. She worked her way through college, received her teaching degree and met “her perfect match.” She always thought that she would do things differently than her mom. She planned on staying married and having the life of Donna Reed, but it seemed that the Universe had other plans for her.



One day I ran into Marjorie at a local mall. Like most of us with small children and full time jobs she was in a rush, but we took some time to catch up.  Her “perfect match” turned out not to be so perfect after all. It seemed that he too liked his beer and high balls, so her marriage ended. She did have two beautiful children, her teaching job and was “making ends meet.” She laughed when we reminisced about her dreams to sing, write and do something great, and even mentioned how it seemed to be history repeating itself … her raising two children on her own, but she was still as optimistic as ever. After her divorce she was introduced to someone on a blind date who turned out to be much more that she ever expected. He was kind, bright, loving, and he didn’t drink. They were engaged to be married. I left our brief meeting feeling so hopeful and happy for her. We left each other with the usual “let’s keep in touch,” but I had no idea that it would be so soon.



OK … I admit … I read the obituaries on a regular basis and because of age I had become accustomed to reading about the passing of my friends’ parents and grandparents, but nothing prepared me for reading about the death of Marjorie’s fiancé.  He was thirty-eight years old and had died suddenly.  I went to that funeral unprepared for what I saw.  The young girl, once so buoyant and full of optimism, was totally despondent, gaunt and grief stricken beyond words. As I approached the casket to pay my respects, I was paralyzed. What could I say? Marjorie threw her arms around me and sobbed. I had no words. As I drove home, I was worried for her and shrouded in dismay.  What becomes of our hopes and dreams that we have when we are young? Is our present dictated by our past? Does our own personal history repeat itself? I never forgot that day or the questions it prompted.



Fast forward, nine years later. I am reading my morning paper and who appears again, but Marjorie. This time it was her picture and a feature article about the launching of her new business. I called her and again we met for lunch. This time, neither of us was harried nor rushed.  We sat and talked for hours.  She admitted that recovering from her loss was difficult, but she had. She was married again, still teaching and her children, like mine, were college age and thriving. Once again I saw that young girl, who was full of life and optimism. She was beaming as she went on to explain how she had always yearned to be creative, to build something of her own, and now at forty-nine years old, she was no longer held back by the constraints or fears born in the past. Her new business allowed her to write and create. She was all about taking a risk and exploring the possibilities. She spoke so eloquently of her “inner voice” pushing her to move forward with her idea and pursue her passion. This time she was going to listen. “We are not our past,” she said.



So, who is Marjorie?  I am, you are, your sister and friends are.  She is all women who have reached this glorious time in their lives when anything is possible. Our careers are solid; we have paid our dues; we have dedicated our lives to raising our children; we have been good wives and good children ourselves. We have all faced adversity, some bigger than others, but as Marjorie said, “We are not our past.”



P.S. For those of you who are wondering … Marjorie has not yet pursued a singing career, but she did win a karaoke contest!

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