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In Search of the final Freedom: Chapter 41 (Part 2)

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

From the driver’s seat, Trish with an air of shock said “Your friends’ parents all had sex videos?”

Misty, Haley and Caitlin all turned to her and in different words assured her that nearly all of their friend’s parents did.

Bonnie stepped in, recalling what Misty had told her, “Come on Trish, are you surprised that Gina, Ronda, Ashely and I all have sex videos?”

Marcy cut in “Mike and I have dozens of them too. Back when we were first married, I put a lot of time into making artistic videos like I’d done with other men before I got married. Oh, in the attic, I have a box with four two-hour videos filled with me and other men and women; though after all these years, they might not even be playable. I’m surprised Sarah has never mentioned the ones of me and Mike. It’s not like they are hidden; they are just in our closet. Then of course we have at least four hours of video of Me, Mike and Gerta; and of me and Rolf.”

Sarah seemed quite surprised “Really? And you’re just now telling me. It never occurred for me to look for sex videos from before Gerta came to see us. And you have sex videos of you and other men?”

“Yes, I do. Men and women. They are all from the last four years before I got married. How I wish I had videos of me from the 80’s. But I don’t.” Marcy replied, “But you will have to hear about that later.”

Bonnie cut off that interaction when she said “Cooper and I actually paid to have a couple of old ones of us from before we were married converted to digital. True mine were just Cooper and I until recently, though I’ve seen a couple of Gina’s, they are quite good and really hot. I don’t think the girls remember it, but Gina and I made a sort of video diary one summer. In it she and I are either topless or nude like 90% of the time. The kids were like eight or nine and they went bare more often than not. There isn’t any sex, but we were all young and they might get a kick out of it.”

Misty jumped in “Really? I’ve never seen it. Where?”

“It is just somewhere in the stack of our old family videos. I think it’s just labeled with the date like all the others. Though I don’t know how you will be able to play it. I don’t even remember what format it is in. Likely it is on an 8mm digital video tape. You are free to look for it.”

Marcy offered “I think we still have our 8mm DVT camcorder. You could use it to play it or convert it to a more modern format.” She seemed to think then said “Don’t you see, this is what I was talking about. You girls were on a course to this place since you were little. While I would agree that many couples have sex videos now, I would say it is very rare indeed for tween girls as a group to do what you did in watching them. Perhaps it was inevitable that you girls would move to free-love eventually since you were engaging in what amounts to social sex when you were not yet out of puberty. Perhaps if more young women were given the example and support you have, and were empowered to live their lives on their own terms; there would be more groups like yours. But sadly, that is not the case; and worse yet, many young women have been so damaged and disempowered that even when they try to enter a free-love life, they instinctively give away the power they have to those who will use and abuse them.”

A look of sadness crossed Marcy’s face. “You see I really do believe girls like you should get all the joy out of your young bodies that you can. I would like nothing better than for my daughter, when she is my age, to be able to look back knowing she did not waste her youth with fear and timidity. Yet even more, I want her to actually have a life worth living when she is my age. I have both, but the hard truth is that not everyone can safely enter into a life without the standard guard rails. And, to be honest, luck was on my side. Given my pattern of reckless living, it was only random fortune that spared me the fate of some of my friends. But luck is fickle and I don’t want any of you to put your life on the roll of the dice. Some of the people with whom I shared those fun and wild years did not come out so well and have wounds that simply won’t heal. Worse than that, several people I cared about deeply no longer have life at all.”

Bonnie was sure that last comment hit the girls with a dose of reality. She was glad Marcy was bringing up the potential risks. She’d worried that perhaps she hadn’t done that sufficiently.

Marcy had stopped talking. Only the road noise filled the van. Marcy turned to look directly at her daughter in the seat in front of her. In a serious voice she said “Sarah, the reason I’ve never told you about my wild life as a teenager is that while for me personally, 98% of the memories from my decade and a half of free-love are wonderful. No ten other people combined have had as many joys as I did. One of my few regrets is that at several points in those years, I abused alcohol so that I actually don’t remember some of the things I wish I could; and…” she began to trail off “…there are also some things I wish I could forget but I can’t.”

Bonnie could see the pain in Marcy’s face. It was so unlike her. She was the kind of woman who was always in control, always unflappable; but Bonnie could see tears welling in her eyes.

Looking out the window, Marcy said “The problem with life is that you don’t actually know the rules of the game until you have already committed yourself.” She stopped again. Everyone in the van just sat and waited for her to continue. After a full minute, she turned back to the girls. “We don’t actually consider that some things that we are equipped to do safely might be beyond the reach of others. So, when we invite them to come with us on an adventure that we know holds amazing wonders; we might be unwittingly setting them up for a disaster beyond repair.”

Even Bonnie was on the edge of her seat. She could not see what Marcy was preparing to tell the girls.

“This is why I feel compelled to tell you a story; my story.” She looked at Bailey and said “You aren’t the only one who wants to be able to share with her mother, but can’t.” She looked to Caitlin “Your mother isn’t the only woman who has traded her freedom for security and stability.” She sat back into the van seat. “My story, is about me and my mother, who I love very much; and how she opened doors for me at her own expense. I’ve had a great life, really I have; but, others have not been so fortunate as to have been raised to believe in themselves. With the best intentions, by not understanding that, I helped to destroy the life of someone who I only wanted to open up to the wonders that I had found accessible using my body to its full potential. It is a story of which I have never, ever given anyone more than the most general description and a guilt that I cannot escape, nor do I deserve to. The hard truth is that even oblique reference to it brings pain that I can’t describe. But I have to tell you. Perhaps I can prevent you from doing the same.”

Again, Marcy stopped. It took Bonnie a moment to realize she was holding her breath. She’d known Marcy since Lamar was in diapers and Sarah not long out of them, yet she had no idea what Marcy was going to say.

Marcy paused as if to suck up the courage for a final leap. “As Haley does right now, I had two lives when I was in high school. At my school, people thought I was just a normal suburban girl. I didn’t hide that I was sexually active, but as far as people at my school knew, my sex life was in line with my peers. My reputation was more based on what I wore than actually having sex. In the age of 80’s big hair, & bright clothes, I had a particular image that set me apart from my peers. I carefully curated my look to stand out. She looked at Haley, “I had no idea you’d curated your reputation in the same way I did. In my case, while I could be counted on to put out on the third date, that was not particularly noteworthy at the time. And since I didn’t actually date all that much at school, I actually didn’t have sex with very many schoolmates. What I was really known for at school was giving occasional flashes of my shaven pussy and peeks down my shirt to show off my tits. This morning, I told you my personal style was mini-skirts and mini-dresses. About half the year I could go bare under my skirt. But since exposed skin, even under a mini-skirt, is not advisable in a Chicago winter; I wore tights under my skirts or skintight pants the rest of the year. I was the camel toe queen more than a decade before the term was coined. I rarely wore a bra, summer or winter and I think all you girls know how hard guys will work to get a look. I’ll explain in a little bit why I started shaving my pubic hair; but at the time it was not the thing to do, so word got around I didn’t wear panties and that I had a bald snatch. Both were enough to give me a reputation; but that carefully honed reputation at school was just a cover.”

She looked at Haley “You have a reputation at Jeff Davis, but what people think you do with guys based on that reputation is just a pale mirror of what you do in your real life away from school. Right?”

Haley nodded “Oh yea. If people at school had a clue what I’ve been doing since I was a freshman, they wouldn’t know what to do.”

Marcy looked at the other girls, then right at her daughter “My real life was as a member of the Northshore Players. From the spring before I started high school until the start of my junior year in college, I was a member of a repertory theater company of college students. While it was in the 80’s, the company’s directors ensured it had a culture that was more like the free-love 70’s. The fact I was one of only two highs school students and the youngest member of the company for four of my six years with them didn’t matter to anyone. By the early summer of my first year with the troop, I was fully a participant in the troop’s life. I think the reason I can tell you about it now, is that after this week, you can understand a community where nudity and sexuality are both ubiquitous and just part of the background to life. From the summer before my freshman year of high school until the start of my junior year of college, my primary identity was that of a member of the Northshore Players.”

Marcy seemed to have come to a stopping place. After a few moments of silence Bonnie asked “So, Marcy, are you finally going to tell us how that happened? I don’t know how many times you have made cryptic comments about it, and this week you have said more than ever.”

“Yes. Yes, I am. Like I said, I’ve been thinking about this for over a year. Our family hosted Gerta as an exchange student for seven months precisely to open the door to my prior life. But Bonnie, you have to understand, this story is really for Sarah, and Bailey… and Misty, Caitlin, and Haley.

Ultimately, I am telling it for all of the girls who I’ve gotten to know this summer at your place.”

Marcy took a deep breath as if she were summoning her courage. “Bonnie, I think you can understand once free love becomes a way of life, the sex itself moves to the background even as you engage in it more often with more people. In such a community, sexuality becomes a medium and a tool by which we express life and explore it at the same time; as well as the milieu in which we can clarify our larger goals in life. You and I both walked that path and by it we became the people we are now, and significantly; it was only by having the freedom to do so, we had the ability to walk away from it for two decades in which we shifted our attention to becoming wife and mother. Neither of us were coerced into doing so, we chose monogamy because we had already found ourselves and in doing so, we were able and willing to suspend that lifestyle to meet another set of goals.”

She stopped and looked at the girls’ faces. While Bonnie fully understood what she was saying, it was clear as day that the girls did not.

Marcy seemed to think for a moment then started again “You girls had a taste of what I am talking about this week, but only a taste. Now that you know what the choice is, you can choose if this way is the best way to become who you want to be. It is not for everyone, and one of my great regrets is that it took me so long to learn that truth. While I don’t regret a single one of the thousands of times I had sex in the sixteen years from the first time when I was fourteen-years-old, till the day I married Mike and gave up the free-love life when I was thirty-one; I do have some very painful memories. Not about having sex, but about the consequences of a free-love life in the lives of a few of my closest friends. Neither of the two loves of my teenage years saw their 20th birthday. One of them became a victim of fate & the times; but the other I led down a path that led her to end her own life.”

Again, there was a period of silence. The weight of her words seemed to be something physical that pressed down on Marcy. Now Bonnie understood why this was so painful.

It took several minutes before Marcy could resume her talk. She looked at her daughter. “I’ve been thinking about how to tell you about the story of my free-love years for a very long time. I think today I will mostly talk about my high school years because that is the most relevant to you, though I will end with a summary of the decade or so between when I went to college and when I met your father. From the spring before I started high school, till I left for Oberlin College my life was totally dominated by a theater company: The Northshore Players. For clarity’s sake, I have decided that it will be best to first give you an overview of The Northshore Players, then go back and start from the beginning so you can see how my affiliation with that group shaped my life.”

The girls agreed.

“The Northshore Players and The Northshore Theater Foundation were created by two women, Dorcus Stokowski and Margarete Torosyan with an initial grant from the NEA that Dorcus was able to parley into grants from a dozen different large foundations over a period of seven years. I was with them from the first year to the last. The foundation’s mission was twofold. The primary mission was to bring professional live theater to communities across the Chicagoland region that normally had no access to professional theater. The secondary mission was to provide the training of repertory theater to full-time college students in the region. Key to this was that the players would be supported by stipends to help them pay personal expenses. That way the experience would not be limited to the well-to-do. The Northshore Players never had their own theater as most repertory troops do; ostensibly we were a traveling company putting on shows wherever we thought we could get an audience. Our main focus was a twelve-week tour each summer. What we did have was an empty warehouse space in an industrial park near O’Hare Airport as our home base and rehearsal space. In that warehouse each fall for eight Friday nights and again in the spring; we put on a weekly show that was free of charge and open to the public. When I first went to the warehouse in the spring of my 8th grade year, it was just an empty space with a simple wooden stage in the center; however, by Christmas, it actually resembled a real theater inside, with lighting and two hundred folding chairs for an audience.”

Marcy stopped. She seemed to be thinking. “It’s odd. I know intellectually I was only fourteen that first summer; but in my memory, I don’t see myself as a child. I thought of myself as one of the troop, and nothing else. Everybody did everything and I had as much theater experience as anyone except Dorcus and Margarete and I had more than at least half of the college students. From those first weeks, in addition to acting, I helped with lights and props and…well all the hundreds of things needed to put on a live production. I even did my turn at cleaning our one toilet. The first year, other than me, there were no auditions to join the company; rather all the other troop members were recruited. The first eight were people Dorcus and Margarete had worked with in productions over the prior year. They were brought on board both for their talent and because they reflected the culture that Dorcus and Margarete wanted to foster. Ten more people were recruited from Northwestern, the Art Institute, UI Chicago, and DePaul because they were known to several of the original eight. They were brought on board for the same reasons of talent and cultural match. The last two members of the company were Dorcus’s son Karl and me. It was only after the second year we needed to have auditions to bring in enough new people to replace those we lost. In the third year, five slots were added to bring the total company to twenty-five. While the first summer there was a fixed cast-crew division after that cast and crew were more or less interchangeable based on need. Crew not only did backstage work, make-up, hair, lighting, and such; but they also were used as understudies and extras.”

Marcy laughed to herself “I didn’t really have a normal high school experience. I was not involved in any extracurriculars. I simply went to class there; my real home was in that warehouse.”

Haley jumped in “Yes, Mrs. Marshal you are right. Your life in high school was a lot like mine. My life is about my horses and rodeo….though I also have my Euro-Club church friends. But I understand what you are saying. I can identify with that life.”

Marcy replied “I thought you might. In the summers we worked six days a week. It was a full-time job. We always did Shakespeare on outdoor stages. The first year we just did The Tempest, but in subsequent years we had one comedy and one history or tragedy alternating each day. At each venue, we put on two performances a day from Thursday to Tuesday. Wednesday was our day off. For almost half of the twelve-week summer run the company performed outside of the city itself at fairgrounds and parks; so we stayed at a local motel for each of the six-night runs. During the school year, we did a fall and spring season. Only in the first year did we even try to book outside venues. After that, we stayed at our rehearsal hall all school year. Twice each season we did two Saturday shows in addition to the eight Friday nights. It was a flexible format of one-act plays, sketch comedy, and monologues. Since Dorcus and Margarete made it clear that we had to put schooling first, each week’s show was different based on who could be there. Still, it was a real job. We got a much larger stipend during the summer than in the school year. Technically we were not paid, but rather the stipend was just money to offset our costs; but to me, it was no different from being paid. For a fourteen-year-old girl, my stipend seemed huge.”

“Though the foundation and the company ran for a total of seven summers, the last two years I was not one of the players. Rather, for those summer tours, I was the associate director since I went to college in Ohio. Now, with that background, my story will make more sense.”

She took a moment to ensure everyone was with her. “Before I start on my life with the Northshore Players,” She turned to Sarah, “I need to tell you about your Grams, my mother. Without her sacrifice, you would not have the life you have. It is now only with you, my own daughter, growing into womanhood, I can begin to truly understand what she did for me. Perhaps that is the way it always is. I still have never talked to her about so many things, so I have so many gaps in what I know of her life.”

Looking at Bailey she said “See, I understand your frustrations with your mother not telling you about things that affect you.”

She turned back to Sarah, “These are things that I think you should know about your heritage to help you chart your life’s course. What I do know, what I told you when we went to my father’s funeral in Chicago last year, is that he is not my biological father. Not that it makes a difference in my love for him, but I thought you should know. I don’t think I made it clear that my parents never told me that. I learned accidentally. I don’t think they ever planned on telling me.” She paused to look around to all five girls then continued “I think it is an instructive story for all of you. In my 7th-grade year, my parents were planning a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate their 15th anniversary. They loved to tell the story of how they met and had a whirlwind romance, then were married in Vegas five months later. It’s a great story. But it was only when she pulled out photos of the wedding, I saw that several had been stamped by the wedding chapel with the date…and year. By the dates, I realized they had told everyone, including me, that romance and Las Vegas wedding happened almost three years before it actually had.”

Sarah said, “I don’t understand?”

Marcy leaned onto the seat in front of her to be inches from her daughter. “Years before, they had created an open secret that you were born nine months after they first met. Sure, according to the story; it was a little scandalous that Mom had gotten pregnant with me the first week they met, but that wasn’t a huge deal since they were married. They put out a false minor embarrassment, to stave off something that simply could not be admitted in their social circles…at least not back then. The truth is I was not born nine months after they met, but more than two years before they first laid eyes on each other. They hid the true story. That they conceived me on one of their first dates was a lie crafted so that my paternity would not be questioned. Understand that I was thirteen when I figured this out, and I got mad that they had lied to me. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I wasn’t old enough to understand why and the cost to them of that lie. They had concocted the lie to protect me. To keep me from being illegitimate. It is not such a big deal now; but back then it was. When I asked my mother about the discrepancy, she took me to my room and shut the door. She was very upset and told me never to tell anyone what I’d found out, ever. I don’t remember her exact words but I knew she was very serious. Sarah, it was only when you and I talked on the way to his funeral did I break that promise. Even your father didn’t know until after my dad had passed.”

“But why was it a big deal.” Her daughter asked. “You have always said your dad was a good man and a good father and how much he loved you.”

“He was and that was why the lie and the secret it hid was so damaging. I’ve thought on this for decades. I think the very fact he was such a decent and rigidly moral man ate at him and our family. It was the 70’s and he was in his early thirties, and already very successful, yet he fell madly in love with a twenty-one-year-old actress with a two-year-old child. The lie was necessary to make their marriage possible. Only by way of other people was I eventually able to learn who my mother was before she became Mrs. Leonetta Hidelman. In those days, women were expected to simply shed their prior identity to become Mrs. Whoever. In Grams case, she had to completely erase her past to cover up that I was not her husband’s child. That is what my mother did… did for me. What little bits she did tell me, she made me promise not to breathe a word of it to my father. So one secret led to a lie which led to a whole lifetime of secrets. When I followed my mother’s footsteps into acting, and then into the libertine lifestyle that went with it, she and I conspired to hide it from my dad. It was not until I was living in Atlanta, in my mid-twenties, did my dad get even a hint that I was not the person he thought I was; but Mom always knew. She knew from the very beginning. She’d helped to facilitate it. While I lived at home, my mother provided critical support and a place to go when I needed guidance; but when we talked, it was always in my room with the door shut. And even then, she was guarded. importantly, she put me into the hands of a trusted woman to be my mentor, someone who stood in her stead when she could not give me the hands-on guidance I needed. Due to her marriage to my father and the social position she was expected to maintain, she was not at the places where I needed guidance nor could she give the kind of advice she wanted me to have.”

Marcy turned to Bailey “When you described your mother’s actions over the last few months; I totally understand. That was my mother too. But in her case, she was protecting the social status of her entire family in an extremely class-conscious community. Until I married Mike and became respectable in her society; she simply could not openly support me in my life choices the way Ronda and Bonnie have supported their daughters. But she did support me every step of the way; but her support was quiet, behind the scenes and she only shared the minimal information necessary about herself and her past. I think she hated telling me that I shouldn’t talk to her about certain things, but she did. She also was challenged to live a moral life while keeping up the charade. She did not want to lie to her husband and so she simply could not hear things that might make her have to choose between her word and my welfare.”

Bailey nodded. “Yea. I get it. Mom can’t help me directly, even though she really wants to. I know she does.”

Marcy nodded. “I said that first so that the rest will make sense.” She looked directly at Sarah and said “Half a year ago you wanted me to tell you about my sex life in high school; well there is a lot to tell, so much that even preparing to tell you about this it is hard to believe I actually did all those things. Though it will seem like a lot, I will only give you an overview today. It will take months to fill in all the gaps I will leave. Day after day, year after year my life was full of wonders that I was sure no one in the history of the planet had ever experienced. Even though I have never told anyone the whole story; the events of my high school years are nonetheless the touchstones of my life. I would not be the person I am without them.”

They pulled into a toll plaza. It gave Marcy a chance to catch her breath and recalibrate.

“So Sarah,” Marcy said in a far more upbeat tone, “I will start from the beginning…well perhaps the beginning was the day I found out that she had me before she met my dad. I needled her for a good year, when Dad wasn’t there, about my biological father. She eventually let me know she did not know who provided the sperm that made me. That was how she put it. I was fourteen and in 8th grade by the time she told me that. Even at that age I understood what that meant. Perhaps I should say, that while I didn’t have the internet or porn to know how sex worked; what I did have was comprehensive sex-ed at school; which is much better and that you girls did not have. It just so happened, the month before she told me that she did not know who my biological father was, I had finished the full semester Sex Ed class. It had included not only the mechanics of sex and birth control; but units on what was called pre-sexual activities, and where sex fits into a healthy relationship. At that time, the anti-sex backlash had not really hit Schaumburg, so the teacher taught as if most of us would be sexually active within the next few years. So, when mom said she did not know who provided the sperm, I understood she meant that when she got pregnant, she was having casual sex with guys with whom she didn’t have an ongoing relationship. More than that, I concluded that she must have done it with enough different men that she could not easily pin down who had deposited the sperm that made me. Yes, it told me a lot.”

Sarah was slack jawed. “Grams was fucking around so much she didn’t have an idea of who knocked her up?”

“Apparently,” her mother said.

Haley asked, “Was she a hippy?”

“Was she a hippy?” Marcy repeated “I don’t know if she would have called herself one, but my Aunt Margarete ran in those circles. I’ll get to her in a little bit, she is very important in my life. Before my mother moved to New York, she was active in the anti-war movement and the Chicago theater scene. She mentioned once that she was there at Grant Park during the ’68 riots at the Democratic Convention.”

Bonnie understood what she was saying, but the girls gave blank stares. That reference meant nothing to them. She told the girls “You should look it up. It was a seminal moment in American history.” Turning to Marcy she said “That is so cool your mother was there. Now that your father has passed, do you think she might be willing to tell you about those years? That is a wonderful family legacy to pass down to Sarah.”

Marcy replied, “Over the summer I’ve been thinking about inviting her down this winter. She’d be happy to escape the cold for a few weeks. But, you are right. Now that he’s gone, I think it is time for us to talk. Just like I only know bits and pieces of her life, she only has snapshots of my life after I left Schaumburg as well. Before that, she knows pretty much everything, not because I told her what I was doing; but Aunt Margarete did. We have always been so careful not to share information that would force her to lie to my father. What I do know, was she left Chicago when she was seventeen to go to New York to be an actress. I know she was very pretty, and she must have been a better actress, singer, and dancer than I ever was. She was in the cast of the original Off-Broadway production of Oh! Calcutta!; before it became the sensation it did. I would love to hear her perspective of how she went from a teenage runaway to a working actress in just a few years. From what Aunt Margarete told me, she left the show because she got pregnant with me.”

Sarah asked “teenage runaway?”

But before she could respond, Bonnie, who had missed that last statement said. “The original cast? That is amazing. What did she tell you?”

“Not much actually. Aunt Margarete told me years before, but it was not until the Christmas holidays before my last semester of college that I finally directly asked her about it. She showed me an old theater playbill that she’d kept hidden. It had her listed with a short bio in the cast section. She was quite proud of it. I think she thinks of it as the highlight of her life as an independent woman. She only showed it to me as her way of encouraging me to follow my dreams to go to New York since I was nearing graduation from Oberlin. Oh, and she was the one who suggested the notoriously liberal Oberlin College and helped me do the work to get in…over my father’s objections. He wanted me to go to Northwestern and he did not want me to major in theater. The compromise was to double major in theater and secondary education so I could get a teacher’s certification. It turns out his advice was good. But that is way later in the story.”

Bonnie turned to the girls. “Just so you know, Oh! Calcutta! became very famous when it made it to London and back to New York in the later 1970’s.” She looked at Sarah, “So your grandmother was in the original off-Broadway cast before it became a hit? That is amazing. I believe it is one of the longest-running plays ever on Broadway. It created quite a controversy everywhere it went because at one point the entire cast went fully nude on stage.”

If it were possible, Sarah’s eyes got even bigger than they had been before.

“NO! No way!

Again, Marcy nodded, “Yep. She was in the cast, so night after night she performed fully nude at the Belasco Theatre on 44th Street in New York City.”

“Was she the star?” Sarah asked.

“I actually saw the revival production of Oh! Calcutta! when I lived in New York. OK, I tried out for the cast but I wasn’t selected. I didn’t even make the first cut. It’s an ensemble play, so Grams was one of the dozen or so players. I don’t know anything more. I’m not sure she knew I knew what the play was when she showed me the playbill. But she told me not to let Dad know she still had it. You see, the Grams you know is a respectable woman in Schaumburg. Yet, once she came clean that she didn’t even know who provided the sperm to make me, she began to let out drips and drabs about her life before she married my father; like when she commented about how scared she’d been when she ran from the police at the ’68 anti-war riot. But like everything else, she failed to give me more. If it weren’t for Aunt Margarete and their close friend Dorcus Stokowski, I’d know virtually nothing about my mother before she got married.”

Bailey spoke up “In my case, I know my mom wants to say more, but there is something inside of her that keeps her from telling me. Even though she wrote saying she would, I’m not convinced she will.”

Marcy reached out to touch Bailey’s arm. “Give her time. From what you’ve said, she has made a huge leap into the unknown already.”

Bailey nodded “I know. I think it’s been easier for her to text than to talk to me. But, if it’s all right with you, I think we could take my tablet when we go out tomorrow night and go through the photos with you there. If we go to House of Pizza, they have some corner booths that would allow us to look at the photos without anyone else seeing them. She loved the pics I sent her, but I think it would be much better if you and Sarah were with me when I show her the whole set. I know Misty is going to delete all the photos that actually show me having sex; but from what I’ve seen her do so far, there will still be a good many that show me in bed with the boys.”

Marcy said, “Then that is what we will do.”

Bonnie put in “If you haven’t done so, you might consider warning her that dozens of people took phone pics of you topless at South Beach before someone confronts her with a photo from the web… and we all know that will happen sometime. If not this week, it will happen eventually.”

Then Bonnie thought of something else “Though, on the other hand, I’m not sure how many people would recognize the girl Misty was shooting on South Beach is you.”

Misty put in, “If I hadn’t shot the photos myself, I don’t think I would have believed it even if someone had told me it was you.”

That got several agreements and comments on how hot she had looked posing…and how that is what had brought the police.

Bailey blushed “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause a scene.”

That got a laugh.

Marcy picked back up her story by telling Bailey, “In my case, my mother loved helping me pick out clothes at the store; with her help, I developed two wardrobes, one for when my dad was around and one for when he wasn’t. You see he traveled a lot for work and by the time I was beginning to understand things, I knew full well which clothes to wear when Dad would see me. When he wasn’t there, I dressed to make sure to stand out. I knew that my mother worked very hard to be what my father wanted her to be; while at the same time, she made it clear she didn’t want me to become one of those girls who lived to get the approval of the in-crowd. I don’t know how many times she reminded me to march to the beat of my own drum.”

Bailey perked up “Yes! That is exactly what I think my mom wants too.”

Marcy agreed. “I do too. In her case, she sent you on this trip and gave you money to buy not just bikinis, but anything else you might need to dress sexy. In my case, my mom ensured I had in my drawer the shortest skirts, clingiest pants, thinnest tube tops and skimpiest bikinis. When I was in 8th grade, even before I’d auditioned for the Northshore Players, she let me know explicitly that when Dad wasn’t around it was not necessary to always wear panties and a bra with my clothes. She didn’t press me to dress sexy; but she ensured that I had that as an option…when Dad wasn’t around to see. And, importantly, she got me involved in theater early. You see, my local community theater in Schaumburg, Illinois had an excellent children’s program with its own productions and I’d been acting in them since I was six. By the time I was preparing for high school, I had become sort of a star of the theater’s children’s program. Between 6th and 8th grade, I’d had leading roles in five productions.”

Marcy laughed to herself and said “Don’t be impressed. I was a big tadpole in a tiny kid’s pond. But I loved acting. I’ve always been petite and so even as I was older than most of the other kids in the last couple of productions I was in, I was small… well except that year I grew boobs. In a year I went from being a bean pole to having hips and 30D’s. So at fourteen, I had the shape of a woman. My boobs have been the same size since the end of 8th grade, even while the rest of me got bigger, so over time they have looked less and less impressive.”

That got laughs from the girls.

She again turned to her daughter “You are fortunate that you look much more like my mother than me.”

That got more comments insisting that she was pretty.

“I know I’m no stand-out and I’m OK with that. What I wanted you to understand was my general life in the spring of my 8th grade year when Aunt Margarete came into my life. More properly, I should say she came back into my life. Though I’d been around her a lot when I was little, I had no memory of that. So in a practical sense, I first met my aunt when I was fourteen when given the opportunity to join the newly formed Northshore Players. Though I’d dreamed of doing something like that, I did not think it was possible. You see even as a young teenager I was self-aware enough to know I was plain looking. Not unpleasant to look at, but if I was going to be noticed, I had to work hard to make it happen. I could sing, dance, and act and I guess I impressed people at that age; however, as time went on, I realized my talents were more modest than I’d first supposed. That audition was the break that changed my life. Mom came to me one day and told me that she had spoken to some old friends from her time when she was with the Organic Theater Company. I had no idea who that group was. But she said they had a grant to produce a traveling outdoor Shakespeare production of The Tempest for venues across the Chicagoland area during the coming summer.”

“Unbeknownst to me, Mom, after hearing what they were looking for, had suggested me to Aunt Margarete and Dorcus several weeks before. They finally came to see me in a spring production at the North Chicago Community Theater. After the show, we all went to a diner and talked. When she introduced the director as my Aunt Margarete it was like a bolt out of the blue. At the time I was totally embarrassed as they went on and on about how much I’d grown up.”

The girls laughed. Bonnie was happy to see they were fully following the story. It seemed to have an important message.

“I saw their fawning on me as belittling; but looking back, I am sure that connection and their relationship with my mother was the decisive reason I got the part. It was the first time I realized my mother had friends in places well outside our clean-cut suburban world. I was told that Aunt Margarete and Dorcus were actually building a new theater company and if I got the part, I would be part of the new troop. I was also told they had looked at several accomplished college students for the role of Ariel but had not found what they were looking for. “

She stopped and looked to Sarah and Bailey, “And don’t confuse that with the Ariel in Little Mermaid, it is a different story and a different character entirely. If you don’t know, this Ariel is a sort of woodland spirit. Over the centuries the part has been played variously by men, women, boys and girls in otherwise adult casts. The director had in mind to cast Aerial as a young woman in the way she had been painted by a number of late Victorian artists. She was looking for a female that appeared somewhere between a girl and a woman. Her vision of the part was someone that could display the innocence of a child with the sensuality and power of a grown woman.”

“I should say that Mom first told me that Margarete was not my aunt by blood only the week before. Of course, I didn’t realize she did that in preparation for my audition. Sitting on my bed, Mom had told me she was the nearest thing to a sister she had and that Margarete thought of me as her niece. That was why I always got birthday and Christmas presents from her, even though I didn’t even recall what she looked like. She had not however given me even a clue as to what their real relationship was. I would only find that out over the next two months. Not only had they been lovers, but Aunt Margarete was the great love of my mother’s life. Additionally, it turns out that Dorcus Stokowski, the play’s producer and Executive Director of the foundation, had taken my mother in and acted as her surrogate mother when she had been my age; though I knew none of that at the time.”

“Aunt Margarete had already told my mother beforehand that they were not looking for a minor. That was not only because they were building their new repertory company that was explicitly for college students; but also because of how they wanted to present Arial. They had come as a favor to an old friend; but after seeing me on stage, they both agreed I should be given a chance to read for them… if I was ready for what they were offering. It was one of those things that knowing the right people got my foot in the door, but I had to walk through it.”

“My mother had talked with Margarete for a week prior to that night, so she knew what the part required and she believed I was mature enough to take the part and join the new company. It was up to me to sell myself to the director and producer. Before we left for the theater that night, Mom and I had a long talk in my room. By then I knew if we went to my room and shut the door, we were going to talk about things we did not want my father to hear. She’d explained the time and effort this part would require. She also said that if I took the part, I would be a professional actress which meant I would get paid; but, it also meant the producer and director would expect me to work like I was a professional. Then she told me something she’d never told me before. For the very first time ever, she told me she had been a professional actress in New York City before she had me. Over the years I knew she’d done a lot of acting before she met Dad, but I just assumed it was community theater stuff. Even then I knew to act professionally in New York was a super big deal.”

Bonnie quipped “It would have been as if my mother had offhandedly told me she’d been an astronaut before getting married.”

Marcy nodded “Just like that. She then told me something that I have never forgotten. It became my mantra for the next sixteen years. She told me that if I became a professional actress, I would have to start thinking of my body as my tool. She explained that it would be important to understand that I was not my body, but rather I was a person who just lived in a body. While I should take care of the only body I have, I should use it in whatever way fits the goals I have in life. She told me that as a professional actress, I might be asked to do things with my body that seem unusual or make me uncomfortable; but that was why I should never confuse myself with my body. At the time I didn’t understand what she was saying or why. And remember this was the early 1980’s, not today. Though in many ways that advice was good; today I would balance that by saying that a young woman should be very slow to give up her autonomy and that discomfort might well be a sign she should seriously ask herself if what she was being asked to do was in her best interest. But that was then, not today. Once I met with Margarete and Dorcus, I understood why she’d prepared me like that.”

“At the diner they talked to me like I was an adult. That was new. They went on about the same things Mom had. They all spoke at length about the commitment the part would require. Daily rehearsals would start the first of April and once school let out; I would be working six days a week until the end of summer. Mom had prepared me for all of that. It all seemed so simple I didn’t know why the big meeting just to offer me a chance to audition. Then my mother explained that she had experience with similar acting troops before I was born and if I got the part, I would be exposed to adult things that would be new and challenging for me. Dorcus and Aunt Margarete emphasized that should they cast me, I would have to adapt to a community of adults that was not designed to accommodate a girl of my age. The troop members would not change their behavior because I was there, nor would she expect them to. She asked if I was up to fitting in with the college students who would be doing the things that college people do.”

“Was she talking about sex?” Misty queried.

“They danced around the word, but yes, they meant sex. Well nudity and sex and drinking, smoking grass and the lot. Aunt Margarete was much more willing to spell it out. First she explained that their rehearsal facility was just an empty warehouse with no changing rooms. She went on to tell me that once we began performances, a single large tent would serve as the common dressing room. She asked me directly if it would bother me to be in close proximity to males and females as they changed. I said I didn’t think so. And she followed up by asking if my costume was so brief it required me to get completely naked before I put it on? I didn’t understand what she meant by the word ‘brief.’ My mother explained that some costumes she had worn on stage were so form-fitting that she could not wear anything at all under it, so she had to strip nude to put them on. Realize this was nearly eight years before she told me about her role in Oh! Calcutta!. But what she said made me think. Then I realized that was why she’d said I would have to think of my body as a tool, so I told Aunt Margarete and the producer that if it was what the part required, I would do it.”

“It was only after I said that, did Dorcus spell out that their vision for Arial was overtly sexual and most of my costume would consist of body paint. She asked me if I understood what that meant. I said I did, though in truth I did not. With that done, they worked out a time for me to read at their rehearsal hall the next week. I was given three scenes I needed to be prepared to do and told to work up a short routine to show how I thought a wood spirit would dance. And it was decided… well almost. “

The next night, Mom came back into my room. She told me I’d done great in my interview with Margarete and Dorcus and she let me know she was sure I could do everything they wanted; but, I would have to think hard about the commitment required. I let her know that I wanted the part. She had a shopping bag with her when she’d come in the room. That wasn’t unusual, she often bought me things that she left in the bag till she got to my room. She just chalked it up to “female stuff” to my father. He was old-fashioned and never asked questions.”

That got some laughs and comments about how squeamish males could be.

“From the bag, she took a package of what looked like a leotard. She said she talked to Margarete and she said as long as I fully prepared for my audition, the part would almost surely be mine. Then handing me the package she said that she and Margarete agreed that to be sure I fully understood what I was signing up for, I should be prepared to audition in something that approximated what I’d be wearing on stage. It was indeed a black leotard, but once I’d spread it out, I could see it was also nearly completely see-through. I asked what would I be wearing with it. She said if I wanted to go through with the audition, the only thing I would wear with it would be my ballet slippers. She repeated that Margarete said that in the play, for Arial and the four other forest spirits, body paint would be the primary costume. While the plan was that the spirits would also wear a fishnet leotard onto which strips of sheer silk were sewn, it would give negligible coverage. She said that they envisioned that part of the costume was to give the sense of motion not to cover the actor’s bodies.”

Sarah asked, “So Grams was telling you that you would be naked on stage?”

Marcy said “No, not really. Wearing body paint is not like going nude. It’s hard to describe but it is different. Mom and I talked for a good while that night. She told me that in the late 60’s body paint was very popular. She let slip that she’d worn body paint as a go-go dancer at a couple of downtown clubs in the years before she went to New York. I don’t think she meant to tell me that. It was one of those little pieces of her past she dropped.”

Baily asked “What is a go-go dancer?”

Marcy laughed, “I guess you’ve never heard that term. Do you remember the girl dancing on the bar at the restaurant we went to on Sunday?”

Bailey nodded.

“She was a go-go dancer, though I’m not sure that is the term they would use today. In that era, go-go dancers in neon body paint was all the rage at clubs. From what I’ve read, depending on the club, many go-go dancers wore body paint with either hot pants or a bikini bottom. Some wore only body paint, but that was not as common. Mom didn’t tell me what she wore with the body paint when she was a go-go dancer. Later I would learn that information from Aunt Margarete.”

Bonnie asked “Didn’t you say she went to New York right after she turned eighteen? So how old was she when she was a go-go dancer?”

Marcy answered “We didn’t talk about the details that day. But a month or so later I had a long conversation with Aunt Margarete about my mom. She told me that after she and Mom had moved in with Dorcus and her husband, money was tight. It seems Dorcus’s husband knew a lot of people and he had gotten her the job at a club. When she and Aunt Margarete weren’t needed in one of Dorcus’s productions, they were go-go dancers. So, the best I can figure, she started doing it when she was still fifteen and danced at clubs on and off for about two years. Margarete told me that in those days all you had to do is tell the manager you were eighteen and nobody asked for proof.”

Sarah shook her head “I just can’t see Grams doing that.”

Marcy nodded “Just before Mom left me with my new outfit, she acted like she’d just remembered something, though now as an adult I am sure she had been working up to it. She told me if I took the part, I would very likely see people engaging in sex when I traveled with the troop in the summer, as well as drinking and pot smoking. It was very much a moment in time because after that she said Margarete and Dorcus would not tolerate hard drug use by anyone in the troop. Evidently sex, booze and pot were no big deal, but she drew the line at hard drugs. She said for me to think about it and let her know if I wanted to go through with the audition. If I did, she’d help me work out my dance routine to show off my skills… after my father left for his out-of-town trip.”

Bonnie inquired “And you were fourteen? Right?”

“Yes, my birthday is in mid-September, so I wouldn’t be fifteen till after the summer production ended. But Bonnie, you know how it is with like dark pantyhose, they might seem totally sheer before you put them on, but on your body, they are far less so. The leotard my mother had bought for me was the same. I’m sure she knew that would be the case. While holding it up to the light you could see right through it, but on me, it was like wearing a very thin one-piece swimsuit. Yes, my boobs and the patch of pubic hair were not completely hidden, but I’ve never felt that body shame so many girls do as they go through puberty. I was actually rather proud of my new boobs anyway, so I didn’t worry that they would be visible as I auditioned. What really mattered to me was I knew this was my big chance. Anyone who has dreamed of acting knows how in every movie the star has to take their one chance, and I saw myself as a rising star.”

Bonnie smiled knowingly. Most adults find youthful dreams amusing.

“Don’t laugh!” Marcy responded to Bonnie’s look. “I was fourteen, and I saw myself on my way to Broadway or even Hollywood.”

Bonnie had to say “I’m not laughing at you. I am remembering myself at that age. I knew I could be the next Bo Derrek. So, I understand. And I was just a hillbilly girl in the mountains of West Virginia, not a Chicago sophisticate like you.”

While they both laughed, the girls seemed confused by their banter.

When Marcy returned to her story, she explained “My mother and I both thought I was up to the challenges of taking the part. Looking back, she knew exactly what I was getting into, even though I didn’t even begin to understand. As I prepared to tell this story, I finally understood something that shows how far ahead she could see. The day after I officially took the part, she gave me a diary and strongly suggested that I start writing down my experiences and feelings about them. She knew that should I join the Northshore Players my life would fundamentally change. She told me journaling would help me understand the things that were happening and help me in decision making. She was right. As each day I spent a few minutes writing, it really helped me to see what was happening and to make me think in advance about what was likely ahead. I am sure that one of the reasons I have so few regrets from that era is my journaling helped my decision-making. I kept it up until I went off to college.” She stopped and thought for a moment. “I really should get those diaries. They are in a box that I know is still at my mother’s house. When my father passed, she told me she’d boxed up my remaining things and asked me if I wanted to take them. I said no because I didn’t want to have to mess with the box on the plane. I meant to have her ship it but never did. I will do that this week.”

Then she seemed to come back from that memory to the present. “Where was I? Oh, the day I auditioned for the Northshore Players. Since it was not unusual for Mom to go with me to auditions at the community theater, she stayed for my audition. I also think she wanted the excuse to spend some more time with Aunt Margarete. Afterward, we all went out to eat: me, Mom, Aunt Margarete, her son Karl and Dorcus. It was easy for her to explain to Dad that we stopped for dinner without mentioning with whom we ate. We actually did that several times over the next few months. That was before cell phones of course.”

“But I’m getting ahead again. For my audition, Mom and I went to a warehouse near the airport. While there was a separate office, the only thing in the big warehouse space was a wooden stage and a dozen or so folding chairs. In addition to Margarete and Dorcus, there were eight people I didn’t know. They were introduced as the other members of the company, all of whom had worked with Margarete and Dorcus in the past. She told us that they were the core group around which the Northshore Players would be built and that she would not give me the part without their agreement. Getting the consent of the leading players was very unusual, but she had been concerned about casting someone so young. Right in front of me, Dorcus told the others that she had opposed even considering a minor for the role, but had spoken to a few other directors about me and they convinced her to see my performance at the community theater. I had no idea she’d talked to my prior directors, though she’d already told me her concern about my age. Then she told them that she’d been so impressed by me that she agreed to have me come audition. Aunt Margarete went on to say she’d known my mother for decades and she and my mother were both sure that while I did not yet have some of the life experiences of the rest of the company; they both were sure I was ready to. She went on to say they both were confident that I would quickly adapt to the open culture they all wanted the new company to have. It was only sometime later did I understand what that meant and why she’d added that part.”

Haley asked “Was she telling them you were a virgin, but if you joined them, you wouldn’t be for long? That sure sounds like what she was saying.”

It took Marcy a moment to answer. “The short answer is yes; though I don’t think she meant it quite the way you made it sound. Yes, later I found out that my mother had told her that she thought I was more ready to start having sex than I realized. And, in hindsight, she was right. But what Aunt Margarete was primarily trying to do was to head off criticism and bad feelings for even considering a little kid for a leading role that could have gone to one of them or their friends. She was not so much saying I was going to start having sex as assuring them that they would not have to self-censor around me because of my age. The Bohemian culture that came to characterize the Northshore Players was not accidental, it was intentionally brought to the new group and fostered by the people in the room that day. She wanted them to know I would fit in and that my mother would not accuse them of corrupting me.”

“I was the only one auditioning, so all eyes were on me when I took off my skirt and top and went up onto the stage in the sheer leotard and ballet slippers. I was rather proud of how confident I was acting, though I was not feeling that way. Not because my little outfit was sort of see-through, but because I was auditioning for an adult, not a kid’s, production. I’d never done that. However, once I went up on the stage, I could tell something was off. Dorcus asked if that was what I was going to wear. Aunt Margarete said she’d told my mother that was what I should audition in. I was confused but I wanted the part. I told Dorcus I would wear whatever she’d had the other girls wear when they auditioned. Aunt Margarete looked over at my mother. She gave a nod of approval. Dorcus came up to the foot of the stage and asked me to kneel down. She explained that the costume for the part was basically just body paint. The person who took the part would need to be comfortable going naked on stage. I guess she didn’t know I already knew that. She said that she had not required or even asked anyone to do so, but the other three girls who had auditioned for the part had opted to wear nothing at all for the audition. I’d already decided I would do what I needed, so without even thinking, I pulled off the leotard. Looking back, that moment was when my life changed. I made the decision, not Mom, not anyone else. It was my Rubican. Once I’d taken off my clothes in front of those people; I was telling them, and myself, that I was ready to be one of them. In a real sense, I was one of them by the time I tossed my leotard to my mother.”

Misty was clearly impressed “And you were fourteen? There is simply no way on earth I could have done that. Sure, I went to the nude beach with Mom when I was sixteen. But the difference between fourteen and sixteen is huge. And to do it on stage like that. Wow!”

Marcy came back, “As I figure it, I was only a little more than a year younger than you were when you were posing for nude photos for complete strangers on a public beach. I’d been doing auditions just like that since I was five, and had worn only slightly thicker and more opaque leotards for costumes many times. I was at home on the stage and at that moment, I felt like I should be the peer of those college students I needed to impress. I didn’t see the huge gulf between my age and theirs. I see it now, but I didn’t then. So, if the other girls who had auditioned to be Ariel went nude, I would too. To me there was no decision to be made.”

Trish, from up front said “I can’t believe your mother let you do it.”

Marcy replied “You don’t understand. I didn’t ask. By the time she could object I was standing there on the stage, hands on my hips showing full frontal. Everybody had already seen all there was to see. But it is true, she consented for them to tell me the other’s had gone nude; and I have no doubt she knew I wouldn’t hesitate when they told me. Her attitude, along with Aunt Margarete’s is certainly tied to their 1960’s view of those things. Today it would be unthinkable.”

Bonnie agreed “Oh, it would create a national scandal. Even by the end of the 80’s that would simply not have been possible.”

Marcy agreed “You are right. Attitudes toward teenage sexuality were changing fast, though it’s one of those things you don’t really see until you look back. The culture was still in flux. By the time I actually turned eighteen, I understood what I’d done could never be repeated.”

Misty asked, “Why was it OK then and not OK now?”

Bonnie turned to look at Misty “That is a really good question. One that I think you, your father, and I should perhaps work on discovering. Just suffice it to say, by the time I was fourteen almost a decade later, her mother and the aunt likely would have been prosecuted. For now, let’s let her go on with her story.”

Misty agreed.

Marcy continued “Oddly, to the best of my recollection, I wasn’t embarrassed standing there naked in front of those people, even though five of them were guys. I’m not sure why. I was surprised how easy it was. I did Arial’s soliloquy by memory and my short fairy dance went great. By the time I read lines with the guy who was to play Prospero, I had all but forgotten I was naked. I’m sure you’ve already figured out I got the part.”

Bonnie laughed, “I guess you did.”

“Importantly, those who would be my fellow cast members and the leaders of the nascent Northshore Players had unanimously agreed I was the right person both for the part and to join their troop. Since two of the others who had already read for the part were those who voted for me, that was saying a lot. They took me as one of their own that evening. I was a peer from day one. Knowing how I came to join their group might help you understand why that summer, there was no resistance to me joining them in their Bacchanal lifestyle."

Haley gave her a thumbs up “Good for you.”

That elicited laughs…and a few comments about Haley’s early sexual activities.

“That night,” Marcy said to return to her story, “my mother came into my room again. We had a long talk about things we’d never talked about before. We talked about booze and drugs and sex. She told me that since I’d accepted the part, she wanted me to start on the pill before rehearsals even began. I assured her I wasn’t planning to have sex. And I was telling the truth. I wasn’t…yet. Looking back, she was so wise and patient with my naivete. She told me that she knew I wasn’t planning to start having sex right then, but things change, especially in the kind of environment I would be in with the Northshore Players. She strongly made the point that I should only have sex when I was ready and wanted to; but, when I believed I was ready and found myself wanting it, I should trust myself. She went on to tell me that she’d already talked to Aunt Margarete about this and should I ever feel confused or like I was being pushed into something I did not want to do; I should go to her. Then she sort of backed up and explained it would be better for me to be on birth control when I didn’t need it, than to need it and not be on it. My teacher had told us the same thing in sex-ed, so I agreed; though I was sure she was wrong about me wanting to have sex in the near future. But she was right. Boy was she right.”

That got laughs and comments.

“By the time we started rehearsals in later April, a sort of half-room had been built behind the stage to create a backstage area. It was not a room exactly because it only had three sides and the walls only went up eight feet, less than half the height of the warehouse. In it were some tables and chairs. It served as the cast and crew’s area to just chill. There were also tables and chairs in the open space in front of the stage and an office attached to the warehouse for administration.”

“Contrary to what I’d been told when I interviewed, I did have an adult looking out for me. Though I think she tried to treat me no differently than she did the others, Aunt Margarete did no such thing. It started after the first Friday night rehearsal. Dad was out of town and so for the second time Aunt Margarete, Karl, mom, and I went to dinner together, then we all went to her place, which was much closer to our rehearsal hall than our home. It was like a world I didn’t even know existed. They lived in what is called a brownstone on Chicago’s Northside. I understand that today that area is really upscale, but at the time it was a pretty rough neighborhood. Though I’d grown up in what is called Chicagoland, I’d only been in the city itself a few dozen times in my life, and always to places like the museums and to the Sears Tower. We had to walk for several blocks from where we found parking and I was trying not to act terrified. What I didn’t miss was that my mother was clearly relaxed as if she had come home. In a matter of weeks, I would come to understand in that scary squalid neighborhood, she had indeed come back home.”

“I’d never seen a home where it’s all one big room, living room, dining room and bedroom are all open. Karl had his own bedroom, but it was really small and I’m not sure it was not intended as storage or a large closet. My mother and Aunt Margarete talked till late. Karl and I watched TV.” Marcy laughed. “They had HBO and that night I watched my first “R” rated movie: Bo Derek’s Bolero. Mom and Dad never would have let me watch that at home; but Mom could see the TV from where she was and never said a word. Her silence about the nudity and sex told me a lot. To this day I have a thing for Bo Derek.”

Bonnie jumped in “So you have a thing for her too. Though you didn’t say so before.”

That got a laugh and Haley said “Oh yea. Bo Derek may be the sexiest woman who has ever lived. I’ve diddled myself more than once watching her movies.”

Marcy laughed too. “So have I.”

Bonnie said “I bet not as much as I have. I wore my VHS tape of both “10” and “Bolero” out… of course I could only watch those tapes when my mother was out of the house….but when I had the house to myself I’d finger bang myself like crazy.”

More laughs.

Marcy went on when the noise died. “Karl and I were in and out of the kitchen where our mothers were talking. From the bits and pieces, I heard; I was sure there was a lot to their relationship I did not understand. On the way home Mom would only say that Margarete was her oldest and dearest friend. When we got home, she came to my room and even though Dad was out of town, she still shut the door behind her. Then for one of only a couple of times in my life, she talked directly about her life before Dad. She explicitly told me that there were many things that she simply could not tell me about or talk to me about due to promises she had made to my father a long time ago. The whole time she spoke at just above a whisper, as if she was afraid the walls might hear. Several times she had to stop because she began to cry. It was one of two nights, a week apart, that I will never forget as long as I live.”

“She opened by telling me that she’d not really told me the truth about her relationship with Aunt Margarete on the way home. She was far more than just a friend. She said she loved Margarete more than I could ever understand. Young people your age would know exactly what she meant by that; but I didn’t begin to. She said that she trusted her with her life; and I should too. Then she dropped one of those occasional bits of information that changed how I saw her. She told me that from the day I was born until she married my father, we had lived with Margarete and her little boy, Karl. She said that for my first two years, the four of us were a family with two mothers. I had even nursed from Margarete’s breasts more often than her own since she had gone back to work as soon as she could. She went on to talk at some length about how hard it had been on me when I lost my second mother when we moved in with my dad. That was why Aunt Margarete thought of me as family.”

“Of course, today, if you girls heard someone say all that you would assume that the two mothers were in a same-sex relationship. Back then that idea simply didn’t exist; though of course, that was the case. When I asked my mother for more details, she just said I should ask Margarete. She said that was what the two of them had talked about for so long. Margarete was prepared to tell me everything I wanted to know. She repeated twice that she wished she could tell me herself, but she couldn’t and that I should never try to talk to her about what my aunt tells me. She said she could not explain why she couldn’t tell me herself; but she thought I’d understand once I’d heard the whole story. She repeatedly told me that if Margarete says it, I should believe it no matter how hard it may be to understand. Cryptically she said that I could trust her with my life because she owed her life to Margarete’s care. However, she most emphatically insisted that I never bring anything Margarete tells me back to our home. She said it will be enough for her to know I know, but we could never, ever talk about it. Nor could I tell anyone what I find out… ever. By her tone I knew she not only meant it, but there was a deep fear in her. It seemed evident to me that what Margarete knew could hurt her, or both of us. I kept that promise until my father died; even though what I found was so far beyond what I had expected that it boggles my mind even to think back about how much I learned in those few weeks. It was like one of those sci-fi movies that someone is transported to a new planet.”

There was an intensity of emotion in the van. Bonnie couldn’t fathom what could be so terrible, though the fact her mother had been in a same-sex relationship when she met her father would certainly be enough in that kind of community back then.

Marcy looked to Bailey. “Now that I think about it; my mother passed me off at about your age to my Aunt Margarete the same way your mother has passed you off to me. In both cases, it was because our mothers were not in a position to provide the kind of guidance they wanted us to have.”

Though Bailey had been listening all along, it was like she finally really understood that she and Mrs. Marshal had a very similar experience. Bailey said “Yes, I think you are right. Though I am hoping I will not have to wait till I’m your age to talk to her.”

Marcy reached over the seat and put her hand to Bailey’s cheek. “I hope so too. And the truth is, from what your mother has told me; you might be able to talk to her tomorrow night in ways I’ve never talked to my mother. I certainly hope so.”

Marcy then went back to her story. “Two weeks later we started rehearsals. Karl and I spent most of our downtime together. After all, not only were we somehow connected from when we were small children, but we were the only two people in the entire company who were not yet in college. The fact he was more than a little socially awkward caused him to be far more sensitive about our age around the others than I was. I didn’t really mind he was a little clingy because he was very sweet, almost girlishly so. Without getting ahead, he became my first love. He will always have a special place in my heart.”

Marcy paused. Clearly just those words hit yet another tender spot. Bonnie wondered how deep this story went.

“As we spent time together, I began to realize he knew a good deal about our two mother’s relationship. It was from him I found out that my mom and his mom had both lived with Dorcus and her husband for several years before either of us had been born. That raised more questions, but he finally said that his mother had told him that I’d need to talk to her if I wanted to know more. Again, I was told Aunt Margarete held the answers to my questions.”

“The rehearsals didn’t really feel any different than in my prior production except that there was a much higher expectation for remembering lines, cues, and blocking. That was not a problem for me since I had all my lines down before the first day. While the eight people that had been at my audition treated me like an equal from day one, some of the others did not. My mother had helped me for years by teaching me how to interact and build goodwill with my fellow cast members. Several years before, with her help I learned that two things would make all the difference with people who thought they should have gotten my role: my performance and my willingness to pull more than my own weight. Like pretty much everything else my mother had taught me about the theater, she was right. I found it was not hard to generate good will by helping around. Since, like I said before, I had experience in pretty much everything that needed to be done I could always help someone out with their task no matter what it was.”

“On Friday, before she drove me to rehearsal, Mom asked if I wanted to stay with Aunt Margarete for the night and go with her to the rehearsal hall on Saturday. I was sure she had arranged it so I could talk to my aunt; and besides, Karl and I had hit it off and I already counted him a friend. Dad’s old-school nature meant he didn’t really keep track of my life; so it was no problem for Mom to simply tell him I was spending the night with friends if he even noticed I wasn’t there. After that, most Friday nights and many Saturday nights I stayed at Aunt Margarete’s. Not just for that spring, but for the next four years. That seedy neighborhood became my second home.”

“The week before I’d not considered why we’d driven Aunt Margarete and Karl home that first time. Again, my privilege world simply didn’t understand what was plainly in front of me. They did not own a car. For me riding the train had been a treat growing up, but I couldn’t imagine using it for all my transportation; it was a revelation to realize that Margarete and Karl did just that. So, I rode the L train with them to their place.”

“What is an L train?” Sarah asked.

That led into a side discussion about Chicago’s public rail transit system: elevated, ground level and subways. After assuring Sara that next time they go see Grams, she will get to ride the L, Marcy brought it back to her story. “Only when we were in Aunt Margarete’s living room did she ask what I wanted to know about my mother.”

Without thinking Bonnie blurted out, “That must have really been a night for you.”

So quietly that the girls had to lean in to hear, Marcy said. “One of the most terrible and wonderful nights of my life. Though Mom had tried to prepare me, it was hard. Really hard. To this day it hurts to think on parts of it; but other parts are simply amazing, and the story as a whole is a beautiful tragedy. Like I said, there are reasons I’ve never told this to anyone. I knew my mom had never said anything about her family. All she had ever said to me was that she’d left her parents’ home when she was young and had never seen or heard from them since. I don’t know if she gave me the word orphan or I assigned it to her; but when asked I had always just said my mother had been an orphan. All growing up, the only family on my mother’s side I’d ever heard of was Aunt Margarete. That night I found out that my mother was not an orphan, she ran away from home when she was fourteen years old. Well, we think she was fourteen. It is possible she was younger. Margarete was unclear as to exactly how long she’d lived on the streets before she moved in with her and Dorcus and her husband not long after she turned fifteen. She didn’t know why Mom ran away from home, how long she’d been on the street, nor where she lived and how. Though she didn’t explicitly say it that night, one thing is sure, for roughly a year, my mother was homeless with one asset to trade. Whether she took cash up front, or just traded it for room and board for a night, a week or a month at a time; I can only conclude that whatever she was running from had to be pretty awful.”

It took Sara a moment to understand what her mother was saying before she reacted with a shallow “Oh God. No.”

Marcy nodded. “Yes.” She got up from her seat and moved to sit with Sarah who had begun crying.”

From Sarah came the mumbled question “When she was younger than me did Grams have to sell herself to live? That can’t be.”

Marcy hugged her daughter.

Bonnie wondered how Sarah was supposed to process this.

After some shifting around, Marcy, Sara and Bailey occupied the center seat with Bonnie and Misty in the front and the other three behind.

Sometime later, when Marcy began again, she said “I think it was good that I did not understand exactly what Aunt Margarete was saying at the time. I think it would have just been too much for me. Her wisdom in not clarifying that until much later is one of the many things for which I owe her eternal gratitude. What I did understand was that my mother had been my age when she was living on the streets, until she met Margarete who took her to Dorcus’s. They met at some sort of concert or festival in Grant Park in the spring of ’68. Margarete was only a year older than Mom but she had been living with Dorcus for about a year by then. She was both the live-in nanny for their two children and… well I can’t say it any easier way…Dorcus’s husband’s plaything. Yes, though Mom was off the street, she still was trading on her one asset.”

There was a string of angry comments. The most aggressive were from Haley.

“I never really fully understood who Dorcus’s husband was. I never met him since he had already died when Dorcus came into my life. But as I understand it, he was some sort of European radical playwright and poet. He had a penchant for young teenage girls. It seems Dorcus had been one of his conquests, but her father was the owner of a string of theaters across the mid-west; so when she came up pregnant at fifteen, he had to marry her. That was in the late 1950’s, a decade before Aunt Margarete brought mom home with her so she and Margarete became sort of sisters.”

Haley added sourly “Who were expected to fuck their surrogate father every night.”

Marcy nodded then added, “But according to Margarete, she and Mom fell deeply in love. So while having sex with Dorcus and her husband a few nights a week and entertaining his friends a few nights each month was part of the deal; from what Margarete said, I don’t think they felt abused at all. They were given a room of their own and didn’t actually sleep with Dorcus and her husband most of the time. Serval times over the years she commented that I enjoyed sex as much as my mother did and that my mother, just like I did, found her identity largely through sex. Also, she said that Dorcus’s husband was an amazing lover and every girl who slept with him wanted to be with him all the time… including her and my mom. Aunt Margarete talked about those years a lot like they were an idyllic time for them. Several years later I asked Dorcus about it, and she was quite open about the fact that when their kids had been young, she and her husband had taken in a string of young teenage girls to both watch their kids and to be her husband’s bedroom playmates. She told me directly that she had been thirteen when he got her into bed the first time and fifteen when her oldest son was born.”

“It seems Her husband saw himself as a playwright, a revolutionary and lover of women; but not so much a father or breadwinner. He wasn’t too interested in being a provider. From her father, she had learned the theater trade. Through that, she supported the family with her income. When I pressed her about my mom’s time with them, she told me that they normally didn’t take in two girls at once; but her husband had been enamored with my mother who was unusually pretty and was happy to do anything he wanted in bed. She was sort of vague about it, but combined with what Margarete told me, I now understand that in addition to having them dance almost naked for money; her husband sort of passed her and Margarete around like a party favor to his friends when they would come over to their house.”

Bonnie couldn’t help but say sourly “In other words, he pimped them out.”

Marcy said “I don’t think it was quite like that, but it would be fair to say they were exploited by Dorcus’s husband. I don’t blame Dorcus, since it was clear she was simply part of his collection of girls too. However, in supporting her deadbeat husband, Dorcus had become rather successful as a theater production manager, director, and finally producer. As I understand it, About the time my mother moved to New York, Margarete was sort of pushed out and a new, even younger girl, took her place in their home. Though her husband was ready to kick Aunt Margarete to the curb, Dorcus was not. As it turned out, my aunt spent her entire life as Dorcus’s right hand. But it was in that strange environment, Mom and Margarete developed their own lasting relationship and bond. For me, that night at Aunt Margarete’s place, the bits and pieces that Mom had told me about her and my aunt started to fall into place in a totally different way than I’d put them together before.”

Marcy was now talking directly to Sarah, rather than the group. “You see over the years, when I’d get presents or things from Aunt Margarete, Mom would tell me little things about her supposed sister. I had those anecdotes to combine with the slowly fading memories I still had of meeting my aunt and her son at the zoo and other places in the city up till I was in about first grade or so. I had put all those things she said into a framework based on my suburban middle-class life which led me to construct a conception of my Aunt Margarete who was very cool indeed; but still more or less someone like the people I knew. But that night in her brownstone, as we talked, I realized nothing I’d constructed in my mind about her had been in the context of their actual life together. It helped when my aunt pulled out an old photo album. I’d never seen a single photo of my mother from her teenage years. Not one. The photos drove it home that I had no idea who my mother actually was. For one thing, as a teenager, she was pretty, far prettier than I’d imagined.”

Marcy put a hand to her daughter’s face. “You look like she did when she was your age. You really do. There were photos of them at outdoor concerts in the park, at parties and just everyday life. More or less like any other photo album. But even as a teenager, I could tell those photos when she was fifteen and sixteen were of a girl living at the margins, often in clothes that must have come from a charity bin somewhere. In those pictures I saw a girl who was living a life a world away from my life in Schaumburg. A girl who I didn’t know. The later photos, the ones with me in them were different. She was dressed much better, but she seemed to have lost something too. And there was something else surprising in the photos. There were pages and pages of me and Mom and my aunt and Karl when I was four and five and even six years old. I had long ago dismissed most of my memories of Aunt Margarete as mostly imaginary,board yet those photos said something else. Margarete explained that for the first three or four years of her marriage to my father, she and Mom had gotten together when he was out of town.”

With a smile, Haley said, “Oh, so she was still getting her bit on the side.”

Marcy nodded. “Yes, I guess she did for a few years at least. Karl jogged my memory with things I simply had forgotten. The four of us would go to the park, the aquarium, the zoo or Navy Pier then spend the night in a downtown hotel. He and I would sleep in one bed and my mom and his mother would sleep in the other. He seemed amazed that I couldn’t recall anything about how he and I would watch TV while they had sex. According to him, we laughed about how it seemed like they were kissing when we went to sleep. Then when we woke up the next morning, they were still doing it. Though, from what he said, it was a lot more than just kissing. His memories seemed so clear, but it was like I had no reference points to bring them up. In seeing the photos from the zoo and from Navy Pier, some of those trips to the city slowly came back to me. After several months I thought I could recall sleeping at hotels with Mom and us going swimming at the indoor pool with Aunt Margaret and Karl , but still nothing else. Later, as he told me about his life on the margins; I came to understand why, at five years old, he understood that his mother was having sex with my mother, while I did not. I am sure it was that understanding of what they were doing that helped him recall the particulars.”

Sarah asked “So, your mom didn’t just cut her relationship with Margarete off like she said?”

Marcy replied “Well the pictures said for sure they had seen each other; but the sex part? According to Karl they did, but Margarete would not confirm or deny it and I never pushed the point; though I did look at those photos many, many times over the next few years. It was only when I was in college, I was looking through the album for the hundredth time, I realized that when she came back from New York, she’d become the woman I knew. In the pictures, she was serious and intense, even when she was supposed to be having fun. Then going back to the older photos when she was still living on the margins, in old clothes, there was a joy there that was gone in the later photos. It made me sad when I saw what she’d lost… what she’d given up. I couldn’t ask her what had happened, though I thought I knew.”

There was a long pause. Suddenly, Marcy seemed to have dredged up another memory and laughed. “But Margarete also had a metal box of 8x10 professional black and whites. They were publicity photos of her and Mom from different productions and places they had worked. Most were of Margarete from plays and clubs over the years, but there were some of Mom. There were several photos of her individually and in cast photos from the three productions she did with the Blackstone Theater in the two years from when I was born till she married my dad. The only ones I remember were the pictures from the Chicago production of Hair, which was the play my dad saw her in and was so smitten he had to meet her. There were also two photos of my mother in bunny outfits with some man I didn’t recognize at the time. It was Hugh Hefner.”

Bonnie cut in “Don’t tell me your mom worked at the Chicago Playboy Club.”

“It seems so. Though according to Margarete, she’d only worked there for a month or two after I was born. Once she was no longer lactating, she went back to work as a Go-Go dancer between acting gigs because she made more money doing that than she did at the Playboy Club. There were several sets of pictures from the night clubs where Mom and Margarete had been Go-Go dancers. The vast majority of the club photos were of Margarete since she was a dancer on and off for like ten years and Mom only did it for the two years before she went to New York and just a few months after. Most of the outfits were less revealing than what you girls are wearing right now; though there were several of Mom in body paint like she’d told me. Not full body paint, but wearing a bikini bottom and flowers painted on her skin so the paint acted like pasties. There were also a couple of dozen topless and nude photos, though their pubes were never shown. Two of the topless and one of the nudes were of my mother. Aunt Margarete told me that she and my mother only danced in just G-strings or fully nude for private parties. The club had an upper floor space for special events and they made very good money those nights.”

Haley asked “So, did they have sex with the men at those private parties?”

Marcy answered “Not men plural, but yes. As I understood it, the man who paid for the go-go dancer normally got her at the end of the night. Sometimes they did it right at the club, but I think a good many times Mom and Aunt Margarete would actually go to a hotel or even home with the man who put on the party. As she described it, it was not a quid pro quo, but she and my mom thought of it as a thank you fuck.”

Caitlin put in “When Bob showed up in our life, I was just getting old enough to talk to my mom about those kinds of things. Like you say your aunt said, my mom has never thought of herself as a prostitute, but when couples paid her thousands of dollars to make a movie with them; she nearly always spent a weekend with them after the production was done as a thank you. She also told me that she had thank you sex with other men for nice things they did for her. But she never thought of getting paid to have sex with the client. Now I’m older, I can see it was more a matter of words to keep her self-image intact.”

Haley put in “I don’t think your mother was wrong or even immoral for doing that. I know full well lots of women have sex in exchange for things. They tell themselves they don’t, but they do. I’ll say right up front, I’ve never done it, but I’d gladly screw a guy for something I wanted but couldn’t get on my own. I wouldn’t feel bad at all. I fuck for fun, why not in exchange for something I really want?”

Bonnie could see that seemed to take the two younger girls off guard. Caitlin quickly seconded Haley’s opinion. “My mom wasn’t wrong to use sex to make a living. If I were in her shoes, I would do the same thing in a heartbeat.”

Misty seemed to get it and said “Really Mom, is taking nude photos of us together to sell to Mr. Kyle all that different? I think I could argue that we will be selling voyeuristic sex too. You have to know thousands of men look at our photos and imagine having sex with us while they masturbate.”

That set off a new discussion. It took a while for Marcy to continue her story. “All that I understood, not that first day, but in a few months I did. At the beginning what was harder for me to understand was the true nature of Mom’s and Aunt Margarete’s relationship. Sarah, you have to understand how different things were back then. I knew what the words gay and lesbian meant…but the nuances of love and sex and nontraditional relationships were simply not part of the culture of the time. When Aunt Margarete said she and Mom lived with Dorcus and her husband; what I initially heard was that they were simple roommates. She must have seen I wasn’t getting it so she spelled it out clearly that she and my mom slept in the same bed. And Very directly, she told little suburban girl me she and my mom had sex together all the time and both of them did it with Dorcus, her husband, and his friends.”

Bailey, wonderfully naively asked “Why was that hard to understand? Even at a redneck school like Jeff Davis I know several pairs of girls who share the same guy. I even know two cheerleaders who did that for half of last year; though they kept it secret. Well… not so secret as they thought.”

Marcy smiled “You can’t imagine how different the world was then. There were neat little boxes for sex and relationships. Even when she spelled it out to me that she and Mom had sex with Dorcus and her husband…and then went on to explain that she and Mom were lovers. To accept what she was saying required a huge mental leap for me to grasp what she was saying. BUT…Mom had prepared me to accept what Aunt Margarete told me, so I just accepted it, even while I didn’t understand. Yes, my mother had explicitly told me that she loved Margarete, but it just didn’t fit the way I saw the world. The truth is I didn’t really fully get it for months. It was only as my sexual and relationship experiences multiplied; did I finally really understand. Finally I came to understand the concept that Margarete and my mother were a couple, and while they had sex with literally hundreds of men and women over the years; the relationship between the two of them was what really mattered. Mom was the great love of Margarete’s life. Though my aunt didn’t tell me that night, once I became highly sexually active, she began to tell me of all the things she and Mom did.”

To Sarah she said “They were the age of you and Bailey when they began their life-long relationship; even if it was often from a distance. While they also had other relationships and had more lovers than I think they can remember they preferred to be together when they did it… when they could.”

Sarah finally had dried her eyes and smiled. “That is so cool to hear. Do you think I’ll ever be able to talk to Grams about me and Bailey?”

“I really don’t know” Marcy said. “I will have to go slow feeling out if she is ready to talk now. She’s held her secrets for almost half a century.”

Misty asked “Do you think your mother and Margarete might get together now that your father is gone.”

Marcy’s face fell. “No. Aunt Margarete is no longer with us.”

Bonnie could tell yet another painful nerve had been touched. To Misty she said “Let Marcy tell it in her way.”

Misty nodded and apologized.

Marcy took a deep breath and went to a new topic. “It was Dorcus who got Mom involved with Chicago’s famous theater scene and provided her with an identity and purpose in life. She told me that my mother’s success on the stage was almost instantaneous. She said that she’s worked with thousands of young people trying to get on the stage and my mother was hands-down more successful than anyone she’d ever worked with. She was personable, exceptionally talented, a diligent worker and, like I said, very pretty. Right off she got her a reading at one of her father’s theaters for a show that was in development. She was good enough that within two years she had landed leading roles at two different theaters. Though the show was a flop, my mom got the attention of several important people. Understand this conversation was a really long time ago when Aunt Margarete rattled off my mother’s accomplishments. She seems to have had some involvement with the famous Second City Theater, though how exactly I don’t remember. What I remember is that she said Mom was signed by an agent and was already in the process of moving to New York City when she turned eighteen; but all her I.D.’s were fake anyway so it didn’t’ matter.”

That comment got the girl’s attention and the narrative was briefly sidelined.

When Marcy resumed, she said “From what I was told, once she arrived in New York, Mom went to work almost right away. Margarete didn’t have very much to tell me about the two years Mom spent in New York City. It seems Mom didn’t tell her all that much. When she moved back to Chicago, pregnant with me, she naturally moved back in with her and baby Karl. Though they were not public about it, they very much saw themselves as a family unit with two mothers and two children. Initially they shared nursing duties, but evidently Mom could earn more than Margarete, so when I was about six months old, I was exclusively feeding from Aunt Margarete.”

Again, the narrative was disrupted by questions by the girls; this time about the concept of shared nursing.

“Within a month or so of having me, Mom was back to work. First at the Playboy Club, then she started rehearsals for a production during the day and dancing at night. Evidently between the two of them, they were dancing at a club nearly every night while the other stayed home with me and Karl. By the time I was two, she had already done a couple of productions at the Blackstone Theater downtown. Her final production was Hair. According to my aunt, it was the perfect venue for her since she could sing, dance, act and didn’t mind doing the nude scene…and she had been the exact kind of person that play was about when she was a teenager. The man who became my father saw her in the play and was smitten.”

Bonnie asked, “How much did your dad know about your mom’s relationship with Margarete?”

“As far as I know, nothing” Marcy said. “According to her, he fell head over heels in love with Mom. As Margarete told it, he was good looking, very nice, well off, and very importantly he didn’t mind she had a child. She said he treated me very well when he was around me. For several months she was his mistress. I guess it was a hard good-by for the two of them when he rented mom and I a swanky apartment downtown, just blocks from the Blackstone. He even paid for a nanny so she could continue to work. He only lived with her part time though. But, as far as I know, he never met Aunt Margarete and wouldn’t have known her if he saw her in the street. Aunt Margarete says initially they both thought he was only going to keep her as a mistress, but he simply loved her too much and asked her to marry him. All very romantic actually. According to Margarete, he never asked about her past lovers or anything else. In return she promised she would never talk about her prior life. The only thing he asked was that when the show’s run ended, she would give up the stage and start a new life with him. And that was it. He changed jobs, they flew to Vegas, they got married, moved into a brand-new home in Schaumburg, and told everyone they had been married for over two years. After that, Margarete never took another long-term lover.”

Marcy went silent.

“That night Aunt Margarete told me that she and Mom had been clandestinely talking on the phone weekly and meeting up a few times a year the entire time Mom had been married. What she didn’t clarify was if their meetings were just for lunch or at a hotel room, and I thought it better not to ask. I have no doubt they loved each other deeply to the very end.”

Again, Marcy stopped talking and the van was quiet for several minutes.

“I had just moved to Atlanta when she passed away. I flew home and it was hard on both of us. I stayed in a hotel downtown so we could be alone. We cried for hours on end. We both loved her and she had been so very important to both of us. It was terrible that she had to pretend that nothing was wrong while she was around my father. Yet, even then we couldn’t talk openly to each other about our relationship with her.”

Marcy stopped talking again. She was openly crying.

It took some time before she could talk again. Holding Sarah close she said “That first night in her apartment, Aunt Margarete told me that she was sure my dad had no idea my mother loved someone else. Only then did Mom’s secrecy make sense to me. I understood why Mom was so concerned that I tell no one what she told me about my aunt and her prior life. As we wrapped up for the night, Margarete kissed me on the forehead and told me that my mother was the love of her life. I think she almost didn’t, but then she followed up to say that she was sure my mother felt the same about her. With that everything fell into place. I saw it clearly. Mom had given up her career and her one great love to make sure I had the kind of family life that would open doors for me.”

She paused.

“She gave everything up for me. Everything.”

What could anyone say?

After a few minutes, very quietly Marcy said “I took the “L” train home from rehearsal on Saturday. When I got to the house. I dragged Mom to my room and we both cried for an hour. I didn’t need to tell her what Margarete had said. She knew.”

Tears were running down Marcy’s cheeks as she choked out “Before that, I rarely told my mother that I loved her. After that day I never ever left her without saying ‘I love you.”

For ten minutes nobody spoke as the miles rolled by.

Trish pulled the van off the highway to get gas. Bonnie suspected the van didn’t need gas as much as the group needed to get out of the van for a few minutes.

Marcy's tale continues in chapter 42

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What a wonderful and sad backstory Marcy has and you told it in great detail. I understand the effort you put into these chapters. We all have our stories to understand our actions in the present. Most women had to go through hell just to survive and for them to give up their dreams for their children is a testimony of a mother's love. Many still do and I know I'll do anything for my child. Thank you for sharing this story.

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