So as Dad was living with his parents, Ma was living on Elmwood Place up on the top of Mission Hill near Parker Street when they first met. Gertrude Janette Bovaird was nineteen and the fifth oldest of Cecelia and Gordon Bovaird’s children. She was sitting on the street-level stoop of the triple-decker where her family rented on the top floor when Georgie came walking up with one of the Bonapaine sisters who lived two doors down and with whom my mother hung around with.
In anticipation of the introduction, she’d gone to great lengths to make herself presentable by wearing her best twin set that consisted of a powder blue sleeveless top with a matching cardigan sweater made from the same fabric and pair of capris. She twisted the string of her mother’s borrowed pearls that hung around her neck between her thumb and forefinger as she feigned indifference to Dad’s approach.
“Gert, here’s the guy I was telling you about, he’s a friend of my brother Jimmy,” said Joanie Bonapaine introducing them.
Ended up my mother was smitten by the tall, lanky, wavy haired Georgie and they sat there on the stoop talking for hours about her recent return from a visit to her relatives in Old Town, Maine (the only time she’d ever leave the state) and about what he would disclose regarding his adventures in Texas and his time in the military, even if it was only at the Coast Guard Station in Boston’s North End, about ten miles from where they sat. They started dating and were married less than a year later when, according to Ma, Dad celebrated by tearing of her wedding dress and raping her on their wedding night which was how she became pregnant with my sister Diane who came along in February 1952. We’d all heard that one time and again.
Many of us supposedly entered this world through violence performed against her.
As awful as it sounded, we used to joke that that it was hard to imagine raping the willing but that was the story she whispered to everyone. It wasn’t until we were all adults that we learned Dad had also been married once before and divorced somehow to a woman while in Texas, and that we had a half-brother we’d never know.
To my surprise, I discovered this when I found his divorce papers in an old, rusted lock box my mother had hidden under her bed as I went through papers for her after Henry died.
We didn’t know his name, but my mother remembered October 1950 as the month in which he was believed to be born. I did a little research and discovered a Robert Boudreau was born that same month and year in Boston, and through coincidence, had been in the Air Force and stationed at the Pentagon at the same time as I was in the late nineties. This was three years after I left the Pentagon, and by the time I learned this he’d already been retired from the military so I didn’t pursue it any further. If he was our long lost sibling, I didn’t want to drag us into his world.
By all accounts, even as a young child, Ma was well on her way to becoming a distinguished graduate from the school of learned helplessness. My aunts reported that like Loretta, she was fearful to the ridiculous sometimes and anxious all of the time, and was picked on by her siblings for her constant whining and sniffling. For whatever the reasons, she developed what psychologists would describe as “a tendency to see one’s life as managed by an “external locus of control.” This, as opposed to an “internal locus of control,” where one believes that what happens to them in life is mainly a result of their own internal and personal capacity.
Trudy relinquished early on any awareness she may have ever had that one does have ultimate control over one’s life, obstacles or others be damned. It was all a matter of choice. She went to great lengths to sustain that notion to the world, and as she gave birth along the way she injected that idea in the most damaging ways to her children, the immediate effects of which made everything seem impossible, undoable. So although unable or unwilling to take control of her own life, she focused her efforts on psychologically controlling them.
Ma was fearful and anxious about everything it seemed, in the external world. She was afraid of things ranging from being near the ocean, going up elevators, heights, driving on the highway, and riding up escalators, to any form of public transportation. So, for example, none of us learned to really swim until we left home, and those of us that were able had to learn how to overcome the trepidation of all those other crazy notions of hers. Some we conquered on our own, others with the help of various stable adults in our lives when we dared to venture out away from her crazy clutches and go out into that “dangerous” external world.
I’m not sure exactly when it was that it first dawned on me that our parents were such a formidable threat to us. Dad was of course for his open, unpredictable, violent and abusive behavior, and moving us around from place to place so often we simply had no sense of a permanent home, and Ma for standing by, appearing unwilling or unable to stop it, and mainly because of what I later realized could be best described as her virulent attempts to infect us all with her neurosis. These were the obvious and immediate dangers, but none of us could know then that for some there would be long term affects from them years after the physical threat had passed.
So not long after me came Loretta. She was the acorn that, unfortunately for her, fell closest to the maternal tree as the trite expression goes, and I guess Eddie only about a foot further away. Loretta and I were Irish twins, with my birthday in December and hers the following November. George and Gert didn’t take many nights off in the bedroom. Almost from when she could walk and talk, she was pretty timid, nervous, and quite afraid of her own shadow, and Ma, like with she was with the rest of us, did nothing to prevent her from believing the boogey man was behind every door and under every bed.