Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
— The Twilight Zone, 1959, Season One
My narrator: Meet Roxanne, a divorced mother of five who sometimes forgets to eat, or chooses to save a simple breakfast bar for her children rather than “waste” it on herself. It’s an ordinary day for Roxanne, who had left home for her only true indulgence — getting her morning coffee. She didn’t know that when she returned into her neighborhood, she would cross into . . . The Twilight Zone.
Over the weekend we had some icy snow in my part of the world. I was out running errands (in other words: getting coffee). On the way home I was wondering whether I could get my children to shovel the sidewalks for me, doubted that they would before going to visit their father and worried about whether doing it myself would throw my back out again. My Aching Back A neighbor offered to pay my daughter to do hers. I wished that daughter or any of the children would do ours also, without back talk, threats or rewards — and before they had to go. It probably wouldn’t happen. I got my coffee, and while there I picked up my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich as a treat, plus I wanted her to get something warm in her belly before going out to shovel the neighbor’s walkway. As is often the case, I didn’t get a sandwich for myself, saving a couple of bucks, not wanting to spend the money on — me. As I turned into my neighborhood, I had my daily thoughts of “I really hate this neighborhood, I don’t like living here.” Followed by, “I wonder if I can figure out a way to move again but keep the kids in the same schools.” And rounding out the trilogy, “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no reason to move except that you don’t like it here and that’s just not a good enough reason.”
Given all these thoughts rushing through my head it was rather amazing that I happened to spot a woman on the side of the road. She had plastic grocery store bags spread in front of her in the snow, was shaking and clenching her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out a way to pick them up again. Clearly she was struggling to carry her groceries home in the snow.
I stopped, backed up, asked if she wanted a ride. She only gave pause for a moment and eyed me to make sure I didn’t look like a crazy. (Sometimes I can appear quite normal . . . but I digress). It was bitter cold outside. She accepted the ride, put her bags in the back seat and sat up front next to me, thanking me. She explained that she rushed out so quickly to get some things from the store that she had forgotten her gloves. It wasn’t that the bags were heavy, she said, it was that her hands were frozen and she couldn’t hold them anymore. “My hands hurt so bad,” she said.
It didn’t really matter to me why she was in her predicament, I just wanted to get her home. It was too damn cold and icy to walk, especially with groceries, no cart and no gloves. She went on to explain that her brother couldn’t shovel the car out because of his eye. His eye. Huh. I pondered this. Why would his eye keep him from shoveling . . . maybe he’d had surgery? I drifted off to my own little world, thoughts racing for first place in my head.
Then my passenger said, “I’m Roxanne.”
Skid marks on the brain. Thoughts stopped on a dime.
“Get OUT!!!” I responded, perhaps a little too energetically, reminiscent of Elaine from Seinfeld.
“What?” she responded, looking concerned. It was an unfortunate choice of words for my exclamation — I mean, saying “Get Out!” to a passenger in my car! Smooth, Roxanne.
“MY name is Roxanne,” I quickly explained.
“Yes. Really. Wow, that’s wild.” It’s a fairly uncommon name. It was surreal.
Roxanne said that I could drop her at a nearby intersection but I told her, no, I would take her all the way home. During the ride I discovered that we had gone to the same high school, and though I had assumed she was older than me, it turned out but she was too young for me even to have known her from school. She appeared worn beyond her years. I didn’t recall ever having seen her in the neighborhood or around town. It was odd.
So what of my surprise passenger, Roxanne? A woman who shared my name, who was walking alone in the snow-covered street, who failed to think of her own needs while rushing to meet the needs of others. The consequences of her neglect of self was finding herself standing in the snow with frozen fingers, groceries at her feet and blocks from home. For whatever reason– her family was not there to help her and she had to accept a ride from a stranger.
It gave me pause.
I’m that Roxanne, too, coming home with a sandwich for a child so that she could shovel another family’s walk but bringing no food for myself.
I almost said to the other Roxanne, “How could you leave home without gloves? You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you get sick or frostbite.” But what stopped me, other than that being creepy coming from a stranger, is that other people have been saying that to me lately. My therapeutic goals are largely based upon meeting my basic self-care needs without guilt.
“Roxanne, have you been eating and sleeping? You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care yourself.” I’ve heard often. Too often.
Did the universe send me that other Roxanne to remind me that I need to help myself? I mean, I know that when I get sick, the whole system fails. I know this, yet I still need reminders that protecting myself from the elements, eating, sleeping and yes even doing something just for my sheer enjoyment of it is as important as, well — anything. Somehow, that reminder got in my car that day, and her name was Roxanne.
I dropped Roxanne off feeling good about having helped her, since it was so very cold outside, but I knew that both of us need to take care of ourselves. I need to take care of me.
Maybe picking up a reflection of myself — what I could become, what I have been . . . was meant to be that day.
My Narrator: Roxanne, a functioning, yet melancholy divorced mother who often puts her basic needs well behind those in her care, stops in the snow to assist an eerily familiar woman in distress, a woman who perhaps shares more than just her name in . . . The Twilight Zone.
Just Me With . . . an over-active imagination?
P.S. I told my therapist about it. She queried whether the woman was real.
I’m not even going there.
See the Sequel: The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?
Thanks to “Lipstick & Playdates” for –A Tribute To Shirley Partridge: The Coolest Single Mom Of All Time — for the great post. I started a comment, got a notification on my iPhone and couldn’t find it again. So I wrote a little post.
I completely agree, Shirley Partridge was the coolest single mom. But, had Shirley Partridge been a current day divorced single mom rather than a widow it would have been completely different.
There’s simply no way she could fit rehearsals and gigs in around the kids’ school work and visitations with Daddy. No way.
” You want us for a great gig next month? Oh sorry, no, the kids have to visit their father that day, any other dates? I can see if I can switch. Can I get back to you? No? “
Mr. Partridge would have the final say-so. If he won’t switch dates, no gig. Gotta work around “the schedule.”
And what about that cool bus? Painting that bus would surely have been used as evidence against Shirley, calling into question her sanity and her parenting ability.
I can see it now:
Lawyer: Mrs. Partridge, how do you and the children expect to travel to these, what do you call them?
Mrs. Partridge: Gigs.
Lawyer: Gigs? Ah, yes, gigs. And again, how do you suppose to arrive at the destination of these gigs.
Mrs. Partridge: By bus.
Mrs. Partridge: Yes.
Lawyer: How did it come to look like this?
Lawyer: The children painted an old bus. No further questions . . . except . . . Tell me, does Danny play football?
Mrs. Partridge: What? No. Have you seen Danny? No. He has no interest. Plus, the other kids would probably kill him or he’d convince them to kill each other.
Mrs. Partridge’s family time consists of children either spending countless hours in the garage playing rock music or riding for hours on a psychedelic bus going who knows where to be put on display . . .
And consider this young boy, Danny — instead of playing football or soccer as young boys should, he’s painting buses and playing bass in a “family” rock band. It seems that a lack of male influence is having an unfortunate effect on this boy.
Then there is a “Manager” — music business executive — a man — seen coming and going from the house at all hours, and spending time alone with the children, including a teenaged girl.
This is no kind of family life to model for these impressionable minds. Clearly, Mr. Partridge is within his rights to prohibit his children from performing in this “band” and disallow any changes in the visitation schedule to accomodate such a pursuit. Such rehearsals and performances should not interfere with the time the children are scheduled to spend with Mr. Partridge and his second wife and growing family.
Mr. Partridge is making a family. Mrs. Partridge is making a band.
No, no, no. Had Shirley been going through a divorce she would have been forced into the traditional suburban housewife role. Ironic, isn’t it? She’d probably have to take a low paying but steady, boring job, pay other people to give the children music lessons and present them, like clockwork and with a smile, to the court devised visits with their father. There would simply be no time for a band. Time can be divided upon divorce, but not created. And interests that may have been supported within a marriage, can become a battleground after. Yup, Mrs. Partridge would pretty much have to walk the straight and narrow and live by schedules forced upon her by somebody else’s system — somebody who has never even thought about playing in a band.
Yeah, I’m guessing divorced Shirley girl would always have open bottle of Xanax or Vodka nearby. That’s much more acceptable to most: misery and medication — over music.
Just Me With . . . no band, no bus, and a drum kit collecting dust in my basement.
Bitter in Suburbia.