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**

"A Housewife's Sudden Epiphany"

The year is 1955.

Mrs. Anna George woke up Monday morning a bit reluctantly, still a bit sad to not hear Trevor, her five-year-old boy, calling her. He just started kindergarten two weeks ago, and since Mr. George’s 9-5 income allowed her to stay home, Mrs. George couldn’t help but feel quite lonely without Trevor anymore. Checking the clock at her bedside, Anna grunted irritably at seeing she’d slept 'till almost noon for the third time this week.

Not to mention the third time in five years!

She simply would need to keep reminding herself that there was still much to always be done at home to keep a 35-year-old housewife like herself feeling important. And so her day began boringly with laundry and tending to the garden, following the same, simple routine of the last six years since marrying Mr. George. Anna never had minded it much because except for the first three months, she'd either been pregnant or raising Trevor. But without such burdens to occupy her, Anna had all her chores done by 3:30 today, though rather than feeling relieved, she instead found herself realizing something was very wrong: there she was slouched on the living room sofa, consumed entirely by television soaps, accomplishing absolutely nothing -

Two daunting minutes passed her by, and then luckily the telephone rang. Grateful, she rose up and walked to the kitchen to reach it. Anna politely answered, “Hello?”

“Hey Aunt Anna, it's me!” It was the cheery voice of her niece, Kate, who’d promised to call after her first week at University.

“Hey, Kate! Tell me, what’s school like, sweetie?” Anna asked interestedly, excited.

Kate sounded ten times more so, exhilarated in telling Anna, “Oh, it’s just wonderful! Everyone in the sorority seems cool and my classes so far are, too!” she said quickly all at once, stoked. “I mean, yeah, this is college, so it’ll be tough ...”

Laughing, Anna complimented proudly, "Yes Ma’am it will! But you’ll be great, I know you will, Kate Harrison. We knew almost at once you were a prodigy child, just like your teachers did!" Kate remained silent, coyly unconvinced, so Anna added as a joke, “Any boys on your radar yet?”

It worked. Kate laughed hard before she responded bashfully, “Well yeah, definitely. There's this really sweet guy next to our dorm named Timothy, so I hope I get to talk to him more!" Her amused tone vanished fast though, as she was seriously quick to clarify, "But what I really have to focus 100 % on are my studies!" Her niece sounded so proud, so prospective - Kate Harrison had grown up. Plain and simple.

"That's right, young lady!" Anna fondly said, perhaps ten times prouder of Kate herself for becoming such a conscientious young woman. "You're going to be at the top of your class, I can spot it now, Kate!"

Kate giggled modestly. "Ha, I wish - There's no way I'm that smart," she doubted of herself.

Sarcastically, Anna said almost impatiently, "Oh, heavens no! Not with that 3.8 GPA of yours!"

Both of them just laughed away at mention of this. It felt lovely as they continued their giddy little conversation about Kate's adventures at the tip of her University iceberg. But for some strange and unfamiliar reason, whereas talking to Kate had made her feel quite happy, after hanging up Anna mysteriously felt far lonelier and bad about herself for a reason she couldn't quite pronounce upon. It was very acute, though, for she could feel every moment the sensation depressing her more -

Anna sighed deeply, thoughtful. Why would hearing about her favorite niece's great start at University make her feel so depressed? She tried disregarding it completely, feeling very wrong about it, and decided to check the mail for something to do to help that. In the post came her subscription to Good Housekeeping, and inserted was an astounding article called "The Good Wife's Guide", which read verbatim:

**

1. Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2. Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

3. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dishcloth over the tables.

4. During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

5. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.

6. Be happy to see him.

7. Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

8. Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

9. Don't greet him with complaints and problems.

10. Don't complain if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.

11. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

12. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

13. Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

14. A good wife always knows her place.

**

Anna, more depressed with each line read, hated the subservient overtones of the article for making her feel so disgusted with herself. But now, at the very, very least, her puzzling sadness made perfect sense in one dissident heartbeat; suddenly she painfully knew just why their conversation had disdained her so: Slouched on the living room sofa mid-afternoon, for the first time ever Anna was realizing this dreadful scenario would be her meaning and purpose for the rest of her life. She was without the slightest intellectual or socially productive prospect in sight of herself.

Looking back at herself at eighteen-years-old, foremost Anna remembers having to turn away college acceptance letters so her 16-year-old brother, Joe Chris, could go to trade school. Logically speaking, it'd been completely unjust given she had made the honor roll every year of high school, NOT him. Nevertheless, Joe was the only son, the man to carry on as the successive master of the house. And so for his chromosome alone Joe got his wish of trade school, got the chance to do what he wanted with his life. Anna, however, hadn't had that same chance back then, nor did she have it now, finishing up her sixth year as a homemaker, either. Had she been content with her life? So far, yes, but would University and a career have brought her, possibly, more satisfaction? That Anna would never know, never even have the ability to know, and her untimely recall of those painful memories therefore revolted her.

Normally a quite even-tempered woman, she actually felt anger penetrating through her, and she tossed the TV remote at the driveway window hard. It bounced off the curtain harmlessly but for a brief moment that actually made her angrier, surprisingly. "Lord God, what did I do? Why did you leave me in the dark?" Anna cried out desperately, almost as if she expected a direct response. She tried taking a deep breath, counting back from ten to remove herself from whichever demon possessing her.

But then, spontaneously Anna found herself refuting all reveries, instead resolving a need to do something proactive to feel better. From some abrupt dimension of reality, thus, arrived her decision to clean out a disregarded closet drawer for the first time in six years...

**

Anna opened the drawer slowly given she had no recollection of it, unknowing whether it was a bunch of old magazines or something fragile inside. Nonetheless, as she did a stunning bolt of suspension thawed her every bone for that last brief second of wonder. Then even more so, when she saw what had been inside all these years, Anna was beyond shocked to say the least: it just felt much too ironic that she was looking down at an organized stack of her four high school yearbooks. Constant helplessness seemed to be a natural part of her growing epiphany, because prior to this moment the trepidation was faceless, an intangible uncertainty -

And Anna felt idiotic when she realized that the pressure making her short of breath, that uncomfortable heaviness sucking her emotions dry, was herself trying to withhold tears over an unsettled past. Desperately, Anna seized the freshman yearbook first, planning to go in order, and felt a particular heart-jerking sensation as she recalled being hailed "The Royal Rookie" on the yearbook staff that year, her commendation for being a great asset even in ninth grade -

And then Anna mentally was forced to remember how furious she'd been with her mother and father for not regarding her educational future equally. Joe had prized all their serious attention and encouragement, even in spite of his mediocre grades, and why? Because he had a penis. So colorfully she could now remember how, though it took several years, she had learned to bury that in the hatchet among many other irreparable memories of them. It was how she had trained herself to manage seeing their faces Sundays without snapping angrily, "You knew I was smart, that I wanted to be something big and meaningful, but you disregarded all that as unimportant - why couldn't you have loved both your children the same?!"

Now, however, adverse inward perceptions of her parents and also herself felt fresh & new, healthy as an animated newborn.

Anna found herself flipping through the pages of the yearbook faster, fury steaming through her heavy breathing, before finally throwing it across midair carelessly. She wasted no time in opening her sophomore one next. Anna now faced 3D mind-loops that brought her back to being that ambitious lacrosse girl, member of student council, to being relatively popular without the dislike of almost anyone in the student body...

Then Junior Year's, which featured her in many pages posing as a member of the organizations formerly mentioned once again, except now as Vice President for Student Council. Anna thought back to her past 16-year-old "overzealous" mystique, then found laughter in remembering Adam Robertson randomly, the sweet boyfriend in her class who took her to their Junior Prom -

Finally somewhat clear-minded, Anna wearily opened the most crucial yearbook - Senior Years': this year that same boy Adam Robertson - importantly also President of the Debate Club and a Lacrosse star at Anna's status-caliber, notably - told Anna how "brilliant" the things she said were without her even knowing to try. Though flattered by her serious boyfriend of an eventual total duration of 2 and 1/2 years, Anna had always viewed Adam as a facetious, lighthearted sweetheart greatly exaggerating to make her feel good. Nevertheless, Senior Year Anna, having midsummer started studying the day's politics with an unpredicted, extraordinary passion, not only joined the Debate Club herself, she finally won her promotion to President of Student Council, too!

Anna screamed several volumes too high for yelling, sporadically reacting to the incessant, heart-wrenching memories which were resurfacing to corrode her sanity apart, seemingly. What the fuck have I turned myself into? How did I let my life become this way? These introspective, emotional misunderstandings sunk Anna into what wasn't an overly-dramatic pity party for herself, but rather in fact a mental acknowledgment that she was living without her dream of a college degree and great career everyone presumed hers afterward; as she attempted to fathom her new eye of it, amazingly, the realization itself alone dropped her to pieces! The truth was seventeen-year-old Anna had been the happiest of all her incarnations, and what had that girl been? Overambitious, athletic, back-talking, outspoken, audacious, even defiant as a daredevil sometimes, but always academically adept; seventeen-year-old Anna was that girl, the popular one with the pretty doll-face, the track jock, the school president, prospective Valedictorian and fierce debater! That Anna had been a highly commended symbol of admiration in school, the chick everyone expected would become one of those "career women."

And yet here I am pacing back-and-forth throughout my house under fire from my own self-doubting gun ... But it's not like I don't really recognize the problem. It's shame and repressed dissatisfaction that's caught up with me. And now look where it's left me: I'm a woman scared of her own reflection -

Anna stopped sporadically by the front window to stare at the rather picturesque arrangement of bright green hedges descending on each side of their curvy, uphill driveway, parallel from curb to garage door. Funnily enough, the outside of the garage shed was only as exciting as the decorations of Republican endorsements covering it. But believe it or not, for its eccentricity the Adams' driveway became the neighborhood favorite (if such entitlements truly existed) after Trevor's fifth birthday party: while parents chatted cheerily and loosely supervised, 50 very amused kids slid down the driveway's cemented surface over and over again on sleeping bags. (Everybody did, however, find it a little odd how their grand driveway scheme leaded into a garage spaced but for two cars.) That day she'd felt a solid matter of contentment, a satisfying enough pride because she'd orchestrated Trevor's 5th birthday, which he spent entirely overjoyed. Days few and far like Trevor's birthday were part of the limited list of "self-flattery days" privileged to housewives like Anna; these highly significant occasions gave Anna the ability to claim full responsibility for something magnificent. After all, Anna philosophized, it's with only so much importance that your standard housewife gets handed such opportunities, their own version of "self-accomplishment days". But that harsh limiting of success will never fill this newly transparent hole in my heart--

And then it happened, Anna reached this all-encompassing, humongous epiphany that was perhaps the greatest catharsis of her entire life, too: in one flashing moment that was like the destruction of a supernova, Anna's subscription to self-degradation ceased to exist. Feeding to her internal ultimatum, Anna returned to the kitchen, reached for the phone, decisively dialed her husband's 'at work' number, and politely conveyed to Mr. Rogers, his boss, the urgent need to speak to her husband.

Understandably, Mr. Aaron George (her husband) sounded taken aback as he breathlessly answered a moment later, "Hello?" Anna never called him during work hours except in the case of an emergency, so rightful concern ushered through his voice. Hearing only quiet on Anna's end, Aaron half-impatiently added, "Honey, what's the matter? Are you and Trevor okay?"

Anna fell into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. Laughing off his concern, she blatantly answered, "No, everyone's okay! As a matter of fact, I'm better than I ever felt in my twenties, even, because all this renewed energy overcomes me!" The outrageous joy overlying Anna's tone was maniacal.

Startled as ever, Aaron gasped deeply into the phone before frantically asking, "ANNA! What's the matter with you, Doll Face?! You're not sounding at all like yourself." Her husband sounded worried as can be.

But Anna's returned indignation completely failed to acknowledge his concern. "NO! No, you're so wrong, Aaron! I've rediscovered myself this afternoon, and now it's time for some major changes," she corrected confidently.

Unamused, Aaron sighed tiresomely, beat from guessing. "I don't know what you mean, or what's gotten into you," he contentiously whispered.

Anna just laughed away, louder this time. "In a nutshell, it means I'm going back to work, Aaron dearest, and hopefully school too! All very soon. I cannot continue this unproductive course each day as a housewife, and honestly I never should have ..." Anna's jagged directness was bold as ever, rather impolite really. Not that she at all cared right now.

Becoming anxious, Aaron immediately protested, "Doll face, you're having an irrational episode of some sort. I'll take you out on Friday to-"

"No, Aaron, no. Either accept me as the renewed character that I hid beneath myself, or leave me. Do whatever is right for you, even if it makes things dreadful for me. All I know right now is that I'm happier than I've been since I was that ambitious eighteen-year-old. I've got my esteem to BE something back!" Anna valiantly declared, firmly defensive and offensive at the same time.

The line went silent as ever, almost like the entire world as they knew it quieted in their conversation's suspense...

The End.

**

Email: atheistsconcernedforamerica@yahoo.com