I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had been born a bird rather than a premature baby girl. The first month of my life I survived through sheer force of will, and the implementation of modern technology. My mother says she safeguarded the flame of my life with her physical presence and spiritual prayer. Since I left the hospital eighteen years ago, she has safeguarded me with the walls of our home as well.
I’m not allowed out of the house after dark, or outside the wrought-iron fence surrounding our property without my mother’s presence at my side. My mother has been a stay-at-home mom since she printed my name in capital letters on my birth certificate: ANGELICA BELLE WASHINGTON. I want to be a Robin so I can fly free of her embrace, but then, I think, shouldn’t Angels have wings too?
My father’s key to escape my mother’s cage is the same reason she is able to keep me locked in. His position as a lawyer for West Virginia’s Senator James Weston provides him with the money to keep my mother in the debutante lifestyle she was raised to expect—enabling her to stay with me every moment of the day. His career equips him with a more than adequate supply of excuses with which to evade my mother’s clutches, because of course a Senator requires the excellent advise of his lawyer quite regularly and this advice must be presented in person if it is to be understood clearly.
I’ve been homeschooled my entire life, a new tutor each year to diversify my education, and ensure that my mother will always be the rock in my existence. The only times I am allowed out into the world are for my mother’s society meetings. Tea with the ladies and their daughters at Bridgeport Country Club. Brunch with Mrs. Weston, and rarely her married daughter, Martha Rothschild. Although eight years my senior, Martha is the closest friendship I can claim. Occasionally, she will visit me in my unnatural habitat. Sit across from me in the over decorated sitting room on the first floor of the cage I call home. Perch on the soft chairs which try to remind me with their quicksand embrace that I am trapped here. I envy her freedom even though she has little more than I. The chains of marriage and motherhood hold her almost as tightly as parental obligation shackles me.
Today, she faces me across the expanse of the sitting room’s massive oak coffee table. We both focus the subjects of our conversation on pleasantries while my mother hovers in the seat beside my own. The almost silent sound of my mother delicately nibbling on a cucumber sandwich is the most interesting sound in the room. I see Martha struggling to find something more to say, and I know that she will leave soon. Although I normally await this signal with dread and compliance, this day I feel an unbearable urge to act. Once Martha has completed her recitation of baby Gregory’s newest accomplishment, grasping his own spoon, I make my move.
"Mother? Were you wanting to show Martha your newest embroidery? The one father suggested you take up?" My mother's expression changed from one of genteel calm to a rather rapt expression of interest. Expecting me, her embroidery was by far her greatest passion. After my mother excused herself to fetch the embroidery hoop, I moved around the oak monstrosity to perch on the chair next to Martha.