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Marietta Madonna September 6, 2010

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Poetry, Uncategorized.
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It is an Irish pub, Saturday afternoon, this Labor Day weekend. Art In The Park has drawn us to Marietta to share some time with our son and his fiancée. In truth, it’s free lunch for them (they still in the college student mode) and for us, a time to do something different on the “other side of the world” in the vast geography of the Atlanta metro.

The scene was typical for the first few minutes. Men at the bar watching the first college football game, yelling at plays or officials and talking loudly. Irish folk and Celtic New Age was the background music. Couples came in and took their seats. Another couple came in with who I assume was their daughter, making the only threesome. Then, the oddest thing began to unfold before me at the table directly across from ours.

A young woman, in her 20s, sat down at the table by herself. She was lovely, with a clear face, dark brown hair and eyes that matched. It seemed for a few moments that she was waiting for someone. As if she was watching the door. No one came. The waiter took her order. I would glance at her from time to time, trying not be obvious or caught doing so. But she caught me once. She stood up half way, like she was adjusting her chair, not quite satisfied with the comfort, and I noticed she was pregnant.

This was a moment when my brain consciously acted like a computer. I went through all the files I could think of, from the past several years, the freshest memories, to the dusty ones that I could gather. It was like a Google search that turned up “We could find no matches for your search. Use a broader criteria and try again”. I realized I had never seen this happen before. Then, the server brought her food and it struck me: she was not waiting for anyone, she is eating alone in an Irish pub on a Saturday afternoon. How brave, I thought at first. Then, how sad, was the thought that followed.

At our table we laughed and discussed the up-coming wedding and other things.  All the while, the Marietta Madonna sat quietly and ate. I thought maybe she was getting away from things to have wine or a beer, taboo during pregnancy. She would not do this in front of her parents, spouse or boyfriend, so she came here. No. She had water with a lemon. Nothing illicit about the food. A sandwich and I think a salad. No fries or anything overtly unhealthy. It was none of my business but I could not recall seeing a single pregnant woman eating alone in a restaurant or pub of this kind before. Why wasn’t someone joining her? How could she be alone? I set that aside and began to let my imagination really run all over this situation:

Her husband or boyfriend is military, stationed far away, and with no family here, she has become used to doing what she pleases by herself.

Her husband or boyfriend is working today. Again, no family around. It is a beautiful day, she’s maybe 4 months into her pregnancy, so why not enjoy the day?

With no family around and a husband working, either near or far, where are her girlfriends, or at least one? Has everyone she knows abandoned her part of the world for the Labor Day weekend leaving her to fend for herself?

She has no husband or boyfriend. Shunned by her family and friends she has had to make it a practice to strike out alone, just to be where other people are. Just to not feel alone. But, surely, this couldn’t be, she showed no distress on her clear face. No obvious stress. Her hair wasn’t dull and lifeless as happens to so many women when they are pregnant. The outside appearance was of a young woman more healthy and active than most in “the family way” (as it used to be called).

Finally, I pulled myself out of it.

We paid our bill and left the pub. We walked over to an antique store and, after that, we parted with my son and his fiancée. They had other plans and ours was to walk around the art fair. I had already put the young woman out of my mind until…

My wife is the consummate shopper. She doesn’t need to buy, but she enjoys looking at just about everything at an art fair. Me, not so much. So, I told her I would stand back on the sidewalk, in the shade near an ice cream parlor, while she took her time to gaze at whatever she pleased at this bank of booths. As she shopped, I people-watched. In truth, this is my wife’s favorite sport, but I can handle it in controlled doses. No sooner than I cast my gaze from right to left, feeling like a pair of eyes for the CIA (brought on by reading too many novels and seeing too many TV shows), there she was, Marietta Madonna, walking by herself, stopping now and then at a booth.

Unknowingly, my wife was heading in the same direction, so my eyes followed Marietta Madonna around until, finally, she walked left as my wife turned right and I lost sight of her.

Again, I thought back: have I ever seen a pregnant woman dine alone then walk an art fair alone? No. Single women populate Starbucks or quick lunch counters from coast to coast every business day. Pregnant or not, they are not unusual. From time to time you will see a single pregnant woman at retail shops, looking for clothes or accessories, interior decorations, even shopping for food or other merchandise. Not a second glance given. But this situation, on an otherwise nondescript holiday weekend in North Georgia, this is memorable for me.

I want to believe that the truth is much less entertaining than my imagination. That through a series of odd circumstances, and nothing at all sinister or sad, Marietta Madonna found herself alone on Saturday and was simply brave enough to strike out on her own. That, as unusual as it was for me to see, it was not at all unusual for her. She is brave enough to live her life alone when necessary and find joy in doing it.

Now, I need to mind my own business and learn to do the same.

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