Christina’s World

Their quarrel last night had been scathing, bitter, a furious unleashing of twenty years of pent-up anger and resentment, a ferment brought about by a dragging eternity spent in Schererville, Indiana, where their house was the only one for mile upon endless, dreary mile. Lately Diane had been ridden with anxiety about the best years of her life, fast-disappearing while she stood still, helpless.

She had been a top sales executive at John Deere when she met Robert. She had helped him negotiate a perfect deal and they had fallen for each other as she finalized the sale of tractors for his 100 acres of midwestern farmland. Love often makes one see the world through a loved ones eyes and a life amidst the cornfields seemed peaceful and extremely attractive then. She sold her home in the city, loaded her possessions in Robert’s pick-up truck and eagerly transformed her life at his behest; the stars in her eyes comparable to the wide-open, glittering night skies of Schererville.

This was 20 years ago. Those early years were idyllic, just her and Robert. He had time for her then and they would often go riding together on tractors, enjoying the harvest, picking strawberries, pumpkins, corn. She loved helping him with his bookkeeping and with the management of his extensive agricultural interests. He depended on her wisdom, her business acumen and sought her advice on every matter big or small.

Then came Christina, followed by John and Matthew a few years down the road. Her days were now spent with the children. Robert would come home to a harried Diane with babies at her breast or bent over the stove preparing massive dinners or cleaning up messes that the three kids, especially the rambunctious boys made. He used to come up from behind, trying to kiss her or fold her in a warm embrace but at the end of her day she felt completely drained of energy and enthusiasm; she was gradually becoming a shell of her former self, devoid of romance and too jaded to be impassioned about anything. She would brush him off casually asking him to clean up for dinner, or to help her lay the table or to run some other errand.

An unbreakable pattern slowly emerged, a rut out of which they were unable to climb. Their behaviors were predictable, entirely too familiar, and contempt, we know, is always lurking in the shadows of familiarity. Avoidance, of each other and of their mind-numbing routines, soon followed. And, as is often the case with these things, the distances soon became unfathomable till they were two strangers sharing a roof, an uninviting one, sheltering a bleak existence, amidst a wretched poverty of souls.

The kids were older now. She had given them her best years. Christina a somber eighteen-year old, had always been a thoughtful albeit shy girl who preferred her own company and spent several hours of the day wandering around in the fields. She loved feeding the animals, watching them graze and even helped her Dad with the rather taxing farmhouse chores whenever schoolwork wasn’t too pressing. John and Matthew, 13 and 10, were also quite used to this life. They loved the horses, they could spend hours with them, feeding them, tending to them, and were both expert riders. Whenever Diane looked around she saw a family that was self-sufficient and content with their existence, busy with the business of growing up and no one ever seemed to have any time for her. She dreaded the reality of her growing invisibility. Her discontent colored her existence completely, obliterating all rational thought.

Christina, their oldest, had an empathetic soul. She had always been aware of her Mom’s moods and sensitive to her emotional needs. Lately she had even started feeling sorry for her, but she hadn’t been able to find the words to comfort her. Shyness or perhaps a lack of maturity had kept her from a heart-to-heart talk with Mom. She had always been a big help to a harried Diane, especially after the arrival of John, and Matthew shortly thereafter. She was thoughtful and insightful enough to sense Diane’s unhappiness. Christina was someone who seemed to absorb all the negative energy around her, reflecting only light, and now she could sense impending doom. She felt as if they were all on the verge of disaster.

To say she was concerned would be putting it mildly. She was distraught and felt completely helpless. She wasn’t able to reach Diane on an emotional level; Diane had been shutting herself out to her family members and Christina seemed to be the only one who sensed this or cared enough. She had always been fond of wandering around the wide-open acres, walking seemed to ease her mind. She would walk around observing things, picking dandelions, or just lying down on the grass lost in thought. She used to wonder about their future as a family, the growing distances between her parents, even her brothers who were blissfully oblivious to it all.

The quarrel she witnessed last night had kept her in tears, worried sick all night. Her parents had been yelling at each other. They had both used words as weapons, hammering away relentlessly. They had staked out their positions and neither one was prepared to budge. Their differences seemed irreconcilable. Her Dad had seemed angry and Mom angrier. Several harsh words were exchanged as the kids all cowered under the covers.

Christina was lying in the field thinking about last night’s events, her eyes shut tight, trying to hold back the tears, fists clutching at the grass when she was startled by the jarring noise of a revved up engine. Before she could get to her feet she saw her Mom’s truck speeding out of the driveway. She sat there gazing at the tire tracks for hours, wishing she’d had the words to say something, unable to move, even though she knew she would soon have to brace herself to walk back to the house to offer comfort and consolation and to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence.

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