A Much Better Actress Than Circus Performer
Lorna wants to be the best student, mother, wife, worker, daughter, friend, pet owner, woman she can be. Can she manage to have it all without having it all fall apart?
We decided to put Alex in daycare, knowing he would
survive/ thrive benefit from the exposure to someone other than his inept-but-determined mother others. After calling about 15 certified daycare providers and hanging up after hearing the ear-drum-bursting din in the background, I began doubting Alex’s our decision to opt for daycare over me.
Chuck knew a woman from his church who watched children “on the side” (code for “not certified”). Since she was Methodist and grandmotherly, she was as certified as we needed. “M” was, quite literally, a Godsend. I marveled at her ability to take in six children of varying ages, care for all of them, do things she needed to do (like sewing), and appear sane at the end of the day. I believe she was an alien, but she was wonderful and worth the $100 per week we paid her, even though Alex wasn’t there all day, every day. “M” potty-trained Alex and told us the exact night he would take his first steps. Alien, I tell you.
With “M” taking such great care of Alex, I could focus on my studies and work. Returning to campus, I discovered that I wasn’t alone when it came to major changes. They hired a big-name sociologist as their new department chair. Tides had turned; the air was thick with arrogance. During my first year, every faculty member loved me, the brainy researcher who’d already been published; I was their “Golden Girl” (without the Florida Condo, sexual innuendo, and plastic purses). This year, under Dr. C’s reign as Supreme Master of All That Was True, my
life/value as a human being skill-set was useless.
Once again, I bumped noses with “Little Man, Big Problem.” He used his power as Chair of the Department to yank the TA part of my fellowship from me, giving it to a student he wanted to serve as his lackey. The money I earned from the teaching assistantship was meager, but it helped, as did the experience. I was powerless to fight him because he
blackmailed/ threatened blackmailed me. He taught a class I was taking and said he would mess with my grade. He told me he would place himself on my dissertation committee and make sure I would never get my degree. I wondered if he was the bully on his playground or the kid the bullies picked on…
The faculty knew what he did to me and so did my student colleagues. Everyone kept quiet. We had a cozy abusive family dynamic happening in the halls of higher learning. Dr. T, the professor from whom I TA-ed was angry and wanted to fight for me, but he was up for tenure. I begged him not to risk his career for me, assuring him I would be fine. I would’ve been more convincing had I not been sobbing at the time.
I landed a part-time job as a researcher for a large nursing home doing quality assurance studies. It helped to pay the
daycare bills and I still had my full scholarship. Dr. C hadn’t pulled that from me as my reward for my silent “Good Girl” schtick. My acting prowess, it seemed, came in handy in all kinds of situations.
Mommy missed Alex’s first Halloween (he probably did, too, being only 5 months old). I was in Dr. C’s class and bought him a Superman costume. His dad flew him around to the few homes we trusted, just to show off our super-man. I vowed to make all of his costumes for the rest of his life.
Despite my best efforts in Dr. C’s class, he gave me a “B”–the only one in the sea of A’s that populated my grad school transcript. I sacrificed precious time with my little boy only to be punked by this little man. I bet he was the scrawny kid that was mercilessly bullied and he was just getting back at anyone he perceived as weak. Was it because I didn’t drink or smoke pot during the last day of class, which he held at his apartment, or because I refused to pose as a homeless person on the streets of DC to help him with his newest research project? Dr. C mistook integrity for weakness and would regret it…later.
What other lessons does Lorna have in store for her as she tries to do it all?