This is a fictitious story i have written about a suburban housewife, who has spent most of her life being simply a wife and mother, with nothing more exciting to her credentials. It recounts the events of one charming evening. For one moment in time, she becomes someone she has always aspired to become, someone she may well have become had she gone down a different road in life.
A MOMENT IN TIME – story of a suburban housewife.
Mira stared at the gold and white invitation with “Class Reunion-Batch 0f ’89” written across it in bold print. She had looked at it each morning for the past one week, fretting and wondering, unable to make up her mind. She thought about it as she packed lunch for Dennis and the girls; she thought about it as she waved goodbye at the school gate, looking distractedly at the other mums who greeted her without really noticing them; and she thought about it some more when she got home and went about her daily chores. No matter how much she considered her dilemma, she still could not make up her mind. Should she go? Or should she simply toss aside the embossed sheet of paper and try to forget about it?
In every crisis, Mira always depended on her faithful Lists. They had worked wonders for her in the past, somehow pointing her in the right direction when she was unsure which way to turn. She sat down with a sheet of paper torn hurriedly out of Lily’s workbook, drew a line in the centre of the page, and wrote “For” and “Against” on either side of the line. This simple act in itself seemed to lift her spirits and she wrote with a vigour she had not felt before. Under “For”, she neatly explained how it would be interesting to meet those she had gone to school with after nearly twenty five years. She could peep into their adult lives, see for herself how they had turned out and perhaps even strike a new and enduring friendship with some. When she turned her attention to the caption on the other side, her chest seemed to constrict. “Frumpy housewife”, she wrote, gritting her teeth, “never worked in her life, raised two daughters, married forever and a day”. The thought of meeting a glamourous bunch of strangers, each more accomplished than the first, seemed unbearable. What would she have to say to them? On days when she felt particularly low, she had often secretly admitted to herself that unless it was homework hassles being discussed, or how to get your teenager to clean their room, or perhaps tips for minimising the influence of tv in your child’s life, she would have nothing to say. Her life revolved around her role of mother, wife, and primary carer.
As she stared at her neat rounded writing, something seemed to stir within her. A slow sense of awakening. All her life she had done things by the book, never taking the first step unless she could see the entire staircase above her. Although her heart thudded painfully, her head seemed miraculously clear all of a sudden. In the box at the bottom right corner of the invite, she ticked to say she would attend, slid it into the envelope and sealed it with a sense of finality. Having made up her mind, she resolved not to think about it any more.
The reunion was held on the last Saturday in April, and as Mira ran around the house, one minute checking to see if her hair rollers were in place, the next peering worriedly at a pimple that seemed to have materialised overnight bang in the centre of her nose, she could not help thinking of the evening ahead with mounting dread. She knew without a doubt that she was going to make a fool of herself.
“You will be fine”, Dennis pecked her on the cheek, as finally, dressed in her red, strapless knee-length dress bought two years ago for her cousin Tia’s engagement party, Mira waved goodbye to her daughters and husband.
The slim gold watch on her wrist told her that she was more than twenty minutes late. The restaurant seemed to be bursting with people and the sound of loud, happy voices sailed through the air as Mira stood rooted to the spot at the entrance. Her heart seemed to be hammering away inside her rib cage. She was about to turn around and escape when a thundering voice stopped her in her tracks. “Hellooooo…is that you, Mi-ra?”. Her name was drawn out in two parts almost as though whoever was calling her seemed vaguely in doubt of her identity. Mira turned around to find herself looking into a pair of smiling blue eyes. She smiled hesitantly, giving a half-nod, as though unsure herself of who she was.
“Remember me? Jarrad Simpson”. Of course, Mira thought. The school captain. Balding now, with a beer belly that spoke of countless indulgent summers, but still with that lop-sided, dimpled smile. ” Hello Jarrad. I am surprised you recognised me”, she smiled up at him. It was rare for her to look up to a man. At five feet eleven in stockinged feet, Mira mostly spoke down to people. “Oh, c’mon Mira, you were the tallest girl at school. And you look much the same. Older of course, but still…..”. He broke off mid-sentence and grinned .
And then, without warning, came the words she had been dreading. “So, what do you do, Mira?”. She opened her mouth but no sound emerged. What should she say? What could she say that would not sound lame and hopeless? Before Mira could come up with the perfect answer, Jarrad said: “I heard a long time ago that you took up photography? Is that true? What are you, a big flash photographer now? Eh?” he nudged her, and Mira looked at him in confusion. “Me, suburban housewife of the decade, all of a sudden being mistaken for a glamourous photographer?” she thought , giggling and nearly said “How funny that you should have heard that”. She stopped suddenly, swallowing her words. Her brain, which seemed to have been stuffed with cotton wool ever since she had walked into the restaurant, clicked and cleared. She felt as though she had just staggered out of a dark forest with heavy foliage bearing down upon her into the bright sunlight. Mira blinked a few times and then said slowly, “Yes, something like that”.
“That’s great. C’mon, lets go and meet the others. There are a lot of doctors and lawyers and bankers in there, but no glam photographer. None before now, that is. They would love to meet you again after all these years”, Jarrad said and took her hand as he elbowed through the crowds. Everyone seemed to smile at him, and there were cries of “Jarrad, old boy” and ” cheers, Jarrad” as they made their way down to a table at the front of the restaurant.
Mira recognised a few of the faces as they looked up at her curiously. Jemma the basketball champion, Eve the school scribe, Tom the class clown, Roger the debating miracle. It was strange how their names seemed to link themselves to specific memories. In their tailored suits and flowing dresses, they bore little resemblance to the scrawny kids they had been over two decades ago and Mira once again felt tempted to flee. But Jarrad stood behind her, his arm lightly placed on her right shoulder. “This is Mira. Remember her? She is a renowned photographer now”. Mira squirmed, and a dull flush crept up her neck. “Come and sit, Mira” Eve the school scribe patted the empty chair next to her encouragingly. “I want to hear all about you. I have never met a photographer. At least not one who has turned it into a career”. That makes two of us, Mira thought miserably, as she sat down.
“So, tell me all about your most recent assignment.” Eve looked genuinely interested, and Mira remembered how Eve had never had any time for her back then, when she was being sought after for providing the juiciest articles to be published in the school magazine, and Mira had been just a very tall girl with no talent. “Ummm….it was in Paris at the Eiffel tower” Mira said desperately, grabbing the words out of thin air. She suddenly recalled the two week European holiday which she and Dennis had taken the girls on last year, as a reward for Lily having completed her School Cert with flying colours. “How interesting” Eve breathed in a husky voice. “Who did you photograph. Anyone famous?”. Mira cleared her throat which seemed to be choking on something small and sharp.”Oh, just two young models. No good, these young upcoming models. Gave me a tough time”, Mira said, remembering vividly Lily and Amy squabbling with each other as she yelled at them to stand still. She wondered if they had even noticed the amazing Eiffel tower which loomed over them in all its majesty, so busy had they been arguing with each other.
All heads at the table nodded in sympathy, as though there was nothing unusual about dealing with sulky difficult models under the Eiffel Tower. Mira’s head was buzzing and she vaguely noticed a drink being placed before her, as someone else asked her to tell them more. What was this, Mira wondered to herself, twenty questions? She seemed to be getting into this charade deeper and deeper. There was no way out now. She could not suddenly snap her fingers and say, “Don’t believe a word i have said. I am just a bored housewife, with nothing better to do than spin a yarn about a fictitious career i can never hope to achieve in a million years”.
“Ever photographed a handsome, dashing young man?” Jemma winked, and Mira wanted for a brief hysterical moment to laugh out loud. “Oh yes, a few times” she said, closing her eyes for a few seconds. A vision of a scowling Dennis as he posed in front of the Trevis Fountain in Rome rose before her eyes. She had been urging him to throw a coin behind him into the swirling water without actually turning back to look at it. Dennis had found the whole exercise pointless, arguing as she frantically clicked that he just did not enjoy being photographed. “Trevis Fountain” Jemma said reverently, clasping her hands in a theatrical pose. “Oh Mira, what an exciting life you lead”.
The next two hours seemed to fly. Mira found out that her ex-school buddies were now accomplished members of society, some powerful, some rich and some both. As they asked her questions about her glamourous career, questions which she fielded with a talent she never knew she had, they seemed to welcome her into their fold, making her feel part of them as they had never had when in school. She no longer felt like the useless, suburban housewife with nothing interesting to recount. As she clinked her glass of wine, and spun an imaginary story about the glamourous jet-setting photographer, her heart seemed to swell. She could not remember the last time she had had so much fun.
The evening came to an end all too soon. “You must keep in touch, Mira” she heard people say as they pressed their glossy business cards in her sweating palm. She nodded, she smiled, she blew air kisses. There was no awkwardness. She was part of the clique. “Taxi” she called out, and with a final wave, opened the door of the taxi that had pulled up at the kerb, and got in. The warmth of acceptance was no longer engulfing her, and she felt suddenly cold. Wrapping her shawl around her strapless dress, she turned around for a last look at the glittering circle she had left behind. She could still see the now blurry figures inside the restaurant, laughing, talking, simply being. For a brief moment in time, she had been a part of them. She had belonged. She would remember this evening forever. Tomorrow she would take up again her role of suburban housewife, wrapping herself with its familiarity and comfort. It was the only thing she knew how to do best. And also, if she were honest to herself, the only thing she had grown to love being. But for today, just for a few hours, she had transformed into a Mira she may well have become, had life taken her down a different path.
She turned the key with a gentle twist and opened the front door. “Dennis, Girls, I’m home!”