|Jane in 1968|
For me, the day was in 1965, when I decided to return to Alaska from graduate school in the South, intending to resurrect--or end--my relationship with Millard, the man who would become my surrendered daughter Rebecca's father.
I began dating Millard the summer before, right after I graduated from the University of Alaska. I was thrilled! He was thirty, more sophisticated than the college boys I had dated, a professional, fun to talk to, attractive--Warren Beatty
in Bonnie and Clyde reminded me of him. Within a few weeks. he asked me to marry him. I didn't accept or refuse. I went ahead with my plan to attend graduate school. True love would wait.
I was unhappy in graduate school -- the teachers and classes were fine, I made friends with fellow students. I soon realized, though, that spending hours in libraries writing papers that only a professor would read was not what I wanted. At the same time I began having doubts about Millard, troubling questions about his past relationships with women, his drinking, his lack of stability. He visited me over Christmas vacation and we took a trip to New Orleans. I hoped that by seeing him, my worries would dissolve but that did not happen.
We continued writing but his letters became less frequent. Then came a not unexpected "Dear Jane"
letter; he was involved with someone else. The letter was followed immediately by a phone call retracting it, followed by a letter, apologizing for his "aberration." Another phone call and a letter. Later I learned that the girl friend dumped him when he told her he had written to me breaking off our relationship.
I stayed in graduate school that summer of '65, It was insufferably hot; I escaped to the only air-conditioned place on campus I knew, the library and stared at the wall of my small carrel. My choices were stark. Stay in graduate school, struggling through literary details of interest only to academics, preparing for a college teaching career I didn't want. I thought of going to my mother's home in Chicago, but what would I do? Opportunities for women were limited then, only a year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act where the prohibition against gender discrimination in employment was inserted as a joke. Beyond these, I had a burning need to know what had happened, why the letters, the phone calls, I had to make sense of our relationship. It was like a cloth with frayed edges. I had to end it or mend it.
That hot summer, I reread several novel by Thomas Hardy which were to be the subject of my master's thesis. Like his ill-fated heroines--Tess Durbeyfield, Eustacia Vye, Fanny Robin--whatever I did would put me further on the course to loss.
I left the south and went to Chicago and spent several weeks there, visiting my mother and older sister who was unhappily married with a young daughter. I went to a see The L-Shaped Room with an old boy friend from high school.
I flew to Fairbanks on August 15, 1965; it was 30 years to the day that comedian Will Rogers lost his life when his plane crashed in Alaska, our flight captain told us. Things between Millard and me went badly from the first. A month later it was over, almost. I became pregnant in February.
Now the man who was so eager to marry me 18 months earlier could not look me in the eye. Neither of us were comfortable with abortion. I knew little about it except it was dangerous and illegal. I have since become strongly pro-choice. I suggested a quick marriage and a divorce after the baby was born. Adoption, he insisted, was better. It would spare me the bother of a baby and save him the expense of child support. I could not fathom raising a child if I had not been married, if only for a brief time. Neither of us had a clue about what adoption was all about. I had to go somewhere where I was not known, give up the baby, and pretend nothing happened. The U. S. was at war, the streets were filled with protesters, "Make Love not War" was their mantra. The times were a changin' but not fast enough to save my daughter. White unwed mothers were still pariahs who could find salvation only by denying the evidence of their shame. If it had been 20 years or even ten years later, I would have had an abortion or we would have worked out an arrangement--common today--for custody and support without ever being married.
The somewhere I went in the fall of 1966 was San Francisco. I rented a small room in an apartment hotel. "An l-shaped room" I told the social worker. She drew back and gasped. "you saw that movie!" My daughter was born in San Francisco ad taken away. It would be 31 years before I saw her again.
Before my reunion with Rebecca in 1997, I spent hours re-playing these events Why did I go back to Alaska? Why did I continue to have anything to do with Millard? Why didn't I walk out of the hospital with my baby? I have lived parallel lives, the present with my husband, children, career, and community activities, and the past forever frozen on the day I left my daughter in a San Francisco hospital. I still recall vividly these events of half a century ago but I have come to an acceptance, a reconciliation of sorts. After my reunion, the part of my life that was stuck in the past took a giant leap forward merging with my other life.--jane
As an aside, years ending in "5" seems to have more historical significance than other years--or perhaps I just notice it more. Eight hundred years since British Barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta; 200 years after Napoleon met his Waterloo, the 150 years since Appomattox, 70 years since the end of the most destructive war in history; 60 years since the murder of Emmett Till sparked the civil rights movement, an event I remember well growing up in Chicago, 40 years since the ill-fated Saigon Babylift. --jane
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES (illustrated, complete, and unexpurgated with the original 1891 illustrations)
"Thomas Hardy, another great Victorian novelist – or does the term “Victorian” suit him? Many of his books, not least “Tess,” shocked readers. Many of his protagonists are tragic figures, violating society’s preferences whether sexual, moral, or political; no comfortable bedtime reading here. Fortunately the condemnation some of Hardy’s novels evoked helped sales, and he continued to produce his enthralling and haunting works. This edition of “Tess” is well formatted and enhanced by the original illustrations. Truly a book to savor.--A reader at Amazon
Far from the Madding Crowd (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Classics)
Far from the Madding Crowd (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Classics)
"The themes of Far From the Madding Crowd have been copied for over 200 years now but it remains a prototype of the romance novel. It is beautifully written, well plotted, and descriptive of the rural countryside and times. But most of all it develops its characters to such a depth and understanding that the reader feels he knows them with all of their strengths and weaknesses. It stirs all emotions: tragedy, humor, hope, and despair. It may seem a bit trite to modern readers but this does not detract from my giving it a 5-star rating."--Amazon reader
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