A History of a Pedophile's Wife
A History of a Pedophile's Wife
A Thousand Milky Shards
The news that one of our neighbors, Mrs. Roy, had up and left her husband simply because she was "unhappy" spread like wildfire. She rented an apartment in Guelph, got a job as a dental assistant, and picked up her daughters after school every day. We soon heard she was taking acting lessons with a local theatre group. Finally, she filed for divorce.
"Happy or unhappy has nothing to do with it," Mother pontificated, her wine glass filled with Bright's Sherry beside the chopping board. "On a certain sunny day in the past, Mrs. Roy made a sacred vow and now she's tossing it, eh? She was all smiles then, eh? Now, because the grin's worn a little thin, she's flying the coop? What if we all did that? What if we all jumped ship when we're 'unhappy'? Good God. What a ninny." It was around this time, in the kitchen one day, that Mother gave Maureen, Irene, Brigit, and me "the talk." She explained that the "sex act" meant planting a new seed for the glory of God, period. She added that thanks to devoted Catholic women, the world would, one day, be entirely Roman Catholic.
"Sex outside that mandate is nothing more than cheap prostitution, a disgrace in the eyes of God," Mother said. She set a bowl filled with a dozen speckled eggs on the counter and began cracking one after the other against the ceramic rim.
"Our lives are not for enjoyment," she concluded, enunciating the final "t" with contempt. "Our lives are for God."
At school, I asked Sister why our neighbors claimed that Catholics have too many children.
"What the Protestants and the Jews of this town fail to believe," Sister began, "is that God looks after all His children. There's nothing to fear for those with real faith. Protestants and Jews believe more in themselves than they do in God. That's their problem."
"But what if parents die?" I asked.
"Think of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, Norda," Sister said. "There were so many leftovers Catholics had to lug them away on camels. God provides in all cases."
While I recall little about Danny's or Paddy's or Joey's arrival home from the hospital, Sheilagh's had been memorable, perhaps because I was nearly twelve years old when she was born, and I knew that in my own body a chalice-shaped nest of woven blood vessels could also hold a new soul for God. If I got married to a Catholic man, I too would give birth to a child, a power of creation greater than any other.
"Well, that annual holiday is clearly over," said Mother, handing me her worn hospital suitcase to store in the utility closet. "A whole week in bed, a private bathroom, and three meals a day cooked by trained male chefs. Who could ask for more?"
Months after baby Sheilagh's birth, Dad mailed a card to me from Calgary. The top left-hand corner read, "From Romeo."
"Who's Romeo?" I asked.
"A character in a play," Mother said, a sharp edge to her voice. "Both he and his girlfriend end up dead."
I didn't know why Mother was upset about Dad's adolescent card. But if my father, like his God, had to rely on a little girl for adoration, there was indeed a problem. It also occurs to me that Mother may well have engineered my trip to Montreal to keep me back from the two-week beach holiday in South Carolina. Perhaps she had her reasons.
That afternoon, Irene dropped Sheilagh's milk bottle on the kitchen floor, where it smashed into a thousand milky shards.
"Maybe I'll follow Mrs. Roy!" Mother screamed. "Maybe I'll bloody well t