Summer of 1971. I was 17, a couple of weeks out of 10th grade, enjoying my first cigarette and looking forward to a lazy vacation. I had never faced a serious problem, never taken an important decision, and never led to believe that I was anything but a typical teen-ager. I loved the Beatles, the Doors and Velvet Underground. Flower Power was groovy and the future ... well, I didn't think about the future.
Meeting Prince Charming
Then I met him. Nothing dramatic. A friend of my older sister's. He was visiting Montreal for the first time and came to visit her in our home.
He invited me for an ice-cream and we went to a park and I told him the story of my crush on the neighbor and he kissed me, oh so tenderly, and deeply, and softly and I fell in love for the first time in my life.
He was 24, an only son from divorced parents. He had been travelling the world since he was 17. He was handsome, intelligent, full of stories, adventures, fantasies and dreams. He swept me off my feet and I looked up to him with adoring eyes.
Telling my Parents
One night, I walked into my parent's bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed, and said to my father, sniffling a couple of tears, "You are not the only one who loves me. I am in love and I want to get married." He said to me "First you finish high school. If he loves you, he'll wait for you." My mother was re-living her own love story with my father, whom she met when she was 15.
We had an intimate engagement party a couple of months later, on my 18th birthday. He was the son my parents never had. I was the first of my girlfriends to get engaged. The wedding was planned for the summer.
I went to high school with my diamond engagement ring like a trophy around my finger. Sometimes I would skip classes and meet my lover in his bachelor apartment. We would plan our life together: we would go around the world, settle in some island and live like the natives. I couldn't wait.
Before the Wedding
We rented an apartment (two streets away from my parents' house); bought all the furniture in one day - the store had the most romantic display of 'love nest' and I melted. The day I tried on my wedding dress, handmade by my mother, I fainted. Love does that to you when you are 18. Everything is tainted by the promise of freedom through love. One thinks, or doesn't, which is the same at that age, that marriage is the ultimate escape out of adolescence.
My last matriculation exams were on the 24th of June and I got married on the 27th. It was a big and beautiful wedding. From time to time I would sneak into the bathroom with a girlfriend to have a cigarette. I didn't smoke in front of my parents.
Then we went back to our 'love nest'.
He carried me over the threshhold.
I was totally happy.
I didn't know how to cook. I didn't know how to clean. I didn't know how to iron. I had no idea how to keep a house. It didn't upset him. He would take his shirts to my mother (on her insistence and my nonchalance) and she would iron them for him, lovingly, as she had done for my father for more than 30 years.
I went on to college, majoring in philosophy and feminist studies. He worked in sales, wrote poetry and played the saxophone. We made love passionately, but talked less about travelling the world.
Three years later, we had a baby girl. No more playing house. I was projected into the real world. I was a mother and I had to be responsible. For the first time in my life. Well, I didn't get onto a good start with motherhood and had a post-partum depression. My 27-year-old husband's idea of being a responsible father was to work day and night. I had no one to talk to, if I had dared to talk.
Nine months later, I snapped out of my depression after being accepted to a first job interview.
I was shedding my teen-age skin, and my new one as a young adult woman already had scars. But I still lacked life experience. He started going away on week-end fishing trips. Even though my mother would warn me to open my eyes to 'his whereabouts', they were open in another direction: Feminism. Social Consciousness. He was doing his thing. I was doing mine.
One year later we divorced. Strangers with familiar faces. We had nothing in common anymore, but an adorable toddler. Did we ever share the same dreams? I had wanted a life of adventure. He had wanted a home and family. But when we divorced, he moved on to his adventures; I was now a single mother - settled down, but not quite settled in.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Today, sixteen years into my second marriage, I know the power and the pull of home and family. It always wins. Even if it fails. Love is the ultimate bond between two people, but love is not a gift to put on the mantelpiece after the wedding night. Love is created daily in acts of kindness towards your partner.
As a teen-age couple, it is a challenge to finish adolescence together, and to enter into the adult world as two committed human beings -- each responsible for his part of the relationship. The real question then becomes: Will you grow up together? Or will you grow apart?