She wouldn’t call it a disastrous first marriage, but it was a short, unsuccessful one. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if she was able to go to the private, more expensive university and not the state school that her father had insisted upon. “But I was accepted to BU’s Journalism School,” she argued. “Do you know how hard that is?” No matter. She was too naive and sheltered and poorly advised to realize that she could apply for grants, scholarships, loans. Now, forty years later, it still pisses her off.
If she had attended Boston University’s School of Journalism, she wouldn’t have had a failed first marriage. Maybe. On the other hand, it’s good to get a marital mistake out of the way when you’re young. She was married at nineteen; it very much could have been a disaster if her first failed marriage occurred when she was forty, and had a rich complicated life that was difficult to dismantle with kids and real estate and custody to consider. When you’re young it’s relatively easy, although you don’t know it at the time, to leave a 3 page note on the wood grain kitchen table, pack up the Toyota Corona with your clothes and books and record albums, and hit the road.
If she had gone to BU, she wouldn’t have left after freshman year because a boy she liked graduated. She would’ve gotten a summer job at Jordan Marsh and an unpaid internship at the Globe or the Phoenix where she would write, write, write. Or, more likely fetch, fetch, fetch. She would down tumblers of scotch because that’s what reporters do. She would go out with and no doubt sleep with more than a few boys, but nothing long-term or lasting. She was going to be a serious journalist, damn it.
Not like at UMass, where she had set her sights on the tall, good looking blonde that lived on the first floor of her dorm. All the girls were crazy about him. All the girls vied for his attention. Not that she was competitive or anything, but that made her more determined to get him. Now, when she thought about it, which was not often if at all, it seemed as if this was the earlier life of some other girl. Certainly not her. She won him in the end and fairly easily; she just took her victory a bit too far when she married him.
Which led to years of clerical and secretarial jobs that bored her silly. The days of Selectric typewriters, dictaphones, and fax machines that had to be physically plugged into the telephone’s handset. Although she changed jobs every year or so, she was grateful for the decision she made senior year in high school to take typing instead of physics, despite the fact that Miss Harris, the ancient spinster science teacher who preached chemistry and physics, chased her down the high school hall yelling, “Typing? You’re ruining your future!” Physics would not have gotten her those mundane office jobs that allowed her to rent an apartment, make car payments, and buy food. She went out after work with friends and office mates to work off her post-divorce gloom. It helped.
If she had gone to BU, she would have worked for the BU News Service, writing and editing and trying to decide between print and broadcast journalism and then deciding not to decide. She would love living in a city, with its bars, libraries, bookstores, and museums, so different from the very small town she grew up in. She would study for a semester in Florence and fall in love with Italian art and the Italian language. And Italian men.
Not like UMass, where she wrote a few articles for the Daily Collegian, but then got scared when the editors started giving her more assignments. Where she thought, “I can’t do this.” Where she no longer stopped by the paper’s office or answered their phone calls. Where she used her fear and insecurity as additional reasons to leave after freshman year and not start writing again for twenty years.
If at BU, she would have gotten itchy during her senior year, just like everyone else. Eager to get out into the world. After graduation, she and her roommate would have stayed in their Fenway apartment, each feverishly mailing out resumes while bouncing from one graduation party to the next. She would maybe work for a local newspaper, covering Town Meetings and grocery store openings. Maybe she would eventually cover national, even world wide issues for a big city paper. Maybe she would have interviewed governors, senators, presidential candidates. Or maybe she would have stayed in a local newsroom, writing obituaries, working long hours into the night to meet deadline after deadline. And as she sat at her shared desk with the colleague who never changed his shirt, maybe she would wonder how she ended up here, what she was missing out on.
These days, she tells her kids the story about the missed Golden Land of Boston University and how different her life would be if she had gone there. “But Mom,” they tell her, “Then you wouldn’t have met Dad and you wouldn’t have had us.” “So? Maybe I would have married a better husband and had better kids! Who knows? Maybe I would have no husband and no kids! I could be sitting at the news desk with Christiane Amanpour!”
The three of them roll their eyes at her latest silly rant. “Who the hell is Christiane Amanpour?” one asks another and they laugh at the inanity of it all as they walk away.
She watches them go, knowing they will tease her later about her ridiculous ranting and raving, she and the kids and the husband knowing that ranting is all it was and nothing more.
She sits at her desk, opens her laptop, and continues her story.