Trudy’s earliest memory is of strangers sitting on her couch or the winged-back chairs, waiting. Silently waiting. Sometimes, when it got bad, her parents had to break out the rusty folding chairs. No one had any interest in playing with her. As she varoomed past, they reached for their piles of papers and thick files and shooed her away.
Trudy was raised in a house driven by rules and “shoulds”. Every day she was told she should read more. Every night her head had to be on the pillow by eight p.m. sharp. But, every year, at around the time the crocuses peaked through the snow, her parent’s close supervision, their rules and tight schedules, went out the window. They went AWOL.
Tax season lasted about three months. During that time, Trudy was free.
Of course, it took her awhile to understand the benefits of her family’s arrangement. When she was young, Trudy felt abandoned. She grew bored of pizza or macaroni and cheese for dinner. But gradually, she came to appreciate the beauty of her parents’ distracted attention.
Trudy joined up with a pack of boys. They’d roam the streets until someone got cold or hot then they’d head to the library. A cranky video game console stationed in the basement held the boys attention, leaving Trudy free to wander the aisles and aisles of books without being made to feel uncool. She plowed through books detailing life stories; women mavericks were her favorites. She also loved reading about daring feats of escape, the more improbable the better.
In the last two weeks of the summer, Trudy and her parents headed to a resort in the mountains. Her parents hunkered down to endless games of bridge with their friends. Intent on pursing adult fun, they shuffled her off to the day camp run by the hotel. There, she learned how to mix a mean gin fizz, smoke cigarettes and trace the major constellations and planets in the August sky.
On the cusp of high school, Trudy had to choose a “track” as they called it. Her choices where limited to the humanities, math and science or the dummy classes. A life of reading books and learning about awe and wonder appealed to her, so she signed up for the humanities. But, on her first day of class, her schedule was mysteriously devoid of poetry, music or art.
Her parents listened patiently to her complaints but refused to sign the transfer request. It was then that Trudy understood the role her parents had played in this alleged “mix up”. Her Mom pointed out that math came easily to her. When Trudy explained what she was looking for, with words too feeble to convey the severed connection she felt between emotions and their natural expression, her Mom looked away and sighed. It was clear she didn’t agree with her daughter. Trudy tried another set of words, a different tactic, metaphors, no metaphors, but still she couldn’t get her point across.
She graduated high school with high honors in science and math and was accepted to a big name university. Some might argue that her Mom was right. When she announced she was delaying college for a year everyone was surprised, baffled. “I’m taking a gap year” she explained. She now spoke without apology about her need to find awe and wonder.
To pay for all this awe and wonder she took a job at The Gap and learned how to fold clothes just as Erika had, by watching a corporate video.