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Adult onset

Adult Onset
by Ann-Marie MacDonald
MONDAY Dreams of an Everyday Housewife In the midway of this, our mortal life, Mary Rose MacKinnon is at her cheerful kitchen table checking e-mail. It is Monday. Her two-year-old is busy driving a doll stroller into the baseboard, so she has a few minutes. Your 99 friends are waiting to join you on Facebook. She deletes it, flinches at another invitation to appear at a literary festival, skims her five-year-old's school newsletter online and signs up to accompany his class to the reptile museum. She skips guiltily over unanswered messages and cute links sent by friends--including one from her brother that shows a fat woman whose naked torso looks like Homer Simpson's face--and is about to close it down when her laptop bings in time with the oven and the incoming e-mail catches her eye. It is highlighted in queasy cyber yellow and bears a dialogue box: Mail thinks this is junk . She eyes it gingerly, fearing a virus or another ad for Viagra. It is from some joker--as her father would say--with the address ladyfromhell@sympatico.ca and in the subject line: Some things really do get batter . . . A baking newsletter from a mad housewife? She bites, and clicks. Hi Mister, Mum and I just watched the video entitled "It Gets Better" and I thought I'd try out the new e-mail to tell you how proud we are that you and Hilary are such good role models for young people who may be struggling against prejudice. Love, Dad PS: Hope this gets to you. Just got the e-mail installed yesterday. I am now officially no longer a "Cybersaur"! Off to "surf the net" now. My goodness. She types: Dear Dad, Congratulations and welcome to the twenty-first century! No, that sounds sarcastic. Delete. Dear Dad, Welcome to the digital age! And thanks, it means a lot to me that you and Mum saw the video and that it means a lot to you that She is proud that he is proud. And that he is proud that Mum is proud; of whom Mary Rose is also proud. Sigh . She does not like screens, convinced as she is they have some sort of neurologically hazing effect. She ought to write her father an actual card with an actual pen to let him know how much this means to her. She gets up and slides a tray of vine-ripened tomatoes into the oven to slow-roast--they are from Israel, is that wrong? "Ow. Careful, Maggie." "No," croons the child in reply. She returns to the table, its bright non-toxic vinyl IKEA cloth obscured by bills and reminders for service calls she needs to book for the various internal organs of her house. Bing! Your 100 friends are waiting . . . A month or so ago she tripped on a root in cyberspace and accidentally joined Facebook; now she can't figure out how to unjoin. She has visited her page once, its silhouette of a human head empty but for a question mark at the centre, awaiting her picture, like an unetched tombstone-- we know you're coming . . . eventually. Her unadorned wall was full of names, many of which she did not recognize, some of which bore the rank odour of the crypt of high school. What is this mania for keeping in touch? she wonders. Mary Rose MacKinnon is unused to continuity. She grew up in a family that moved every few years until she was a teenager, and each time it was as if everything and everyone vanished behind them. Or entered a different realm, a mythic one wherein time stopped, the children she had known never grew older and, as in a cartoon, people and places retained the same clothes and aspect day after day, regardless of weather, explosions or being shot by Elmer Fudd. She would not change a thing, however, each move having brought with it a sense of renewal; as though she had outrun a shameful past--starting at age three. Nowadays, she reflects, no one is allowed to outrun anything. If one kid slugs another in the park, they're packed off to therapy. Delete. People used to joke about Xeroxed newsletters sent by relentlessly chipper housewives at Christmas. Their effect, and perhaps their purpose, was to make everyone who received them feel bad about their own lives. Nowadays people torture one another online with pictures of their golden-retriever lifestyles and tweets about must-see plays in New York with one-word titles, new restaurants in Toronto with four tables, human rights abuses in China and the truth behind the down duvet industry. Where is the meadow of yesteryear? Whither the sound of one insect scaling a stalk of grass? The time-silvered fence post in the afternoon sun? What has become of time itself in its expansive, unparcelled state, uncorseted by language? Where have all the tiny eternities gone? Gone to urgencies, every one. As she types this e-mail to her father, icebergs are evaporating and falling as rain on her February garden, where a water-boarded tulip has foolishly put its head up--are things getting better or worse? Bing! Matthew is invited to Eli's Big Boy Birthday Party! Click here to view your e-vite! A birthday party at some obscure suburban facility north of Yonge and the 401, do these parents have no compassion? She peers into the depths of info and goodies! trying to find a date and time amid exploding balloons and floating dinosaurs. She used to console herself with the notion that the human species would burn itself out like a virus and Earth would recover Her bounty and diversity. But that was before she became a mother. Nowadays? How old is she? No one says nowadays nowadays. She'll be making references to the Great Depression before she knows it. It is April, today is the first--though anyone might be forgiven for getting the months muddled considering it did rain all through February. She wonders if that impacted the usual February suicide rate. Impacted did not used to be a verb. Sometime in the nineties it got verbed, like so many other unsuspecting nouns. Dear Dad, I Excerpted from Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Adult onset