Q: So I’m fascinated by this topic. Just thinking about what it must have been like to have been a single mom in the seventies. Forty years ago. Another world.
A: Yeah. It was a bitch being left alone on the prairie in my covered wagon.
Q: Sorry. I didn’t mean to make it sound like it was that long ago. So what was it like for you and the other single moms in your community?
A: There weren’t any other single moms in my community. At least, not any I knew. I was the only one. I was an oddity.
Q: Well, so how did that play out, being an oddity?
A: It was weird. Like having an amputated leg. Everywhere I went, I had phantom husband pain. You know, like how people who lose their legs keep feeling pain in their legs, keep feeling like their legs are there or ought to be there. That’s how I felt. I’d go to a soccer game to watch my daughter play and I’d feel like I was standing next to a space cut out of the atmosphere where a husband should have been.
Q: So you missed your husband?
A: I don’t know. Yes. No. I missed having a husband. I felt like a freak. Like when you wear pants and everyone else is in a dress.
Q: There was nothing good about being a single mom?
A: Well, there was dating. Marriage pretty much puts the kibosh on dating. So being divorced opens that door. But then if you have a child, there are limits on dating. Although sometimes I had trouble with those limits. My judgment wasn’t always perfect, you know. Morning strangers. There weren’t a lot of them but there were a couple. Not my shining hour as a parent.
Q: Looking back, what stands out for you about that time?
A: That I wasn’t more scared. That I drank so much. That I went to work every day and then to graduate school. That we had dinner every night and walked to the playground after dinner. That I smoked almost constantly. That there was no one there to check my anger. That I read the same Saggy Baggy Elephant book a thousand times. That what I left my marriage for didn’t exist. That if I had a flat tire, I had no one to call. That it was hard. That when the wind blew through my upper flat, the curtains would flutter. That I listened to Red Headed Stranger all the time. That it was hard for us to pull the Christmas tree up the stairs. That I could hear my daughter running and playing in the street with her friends. That I made a million mistakes. That we had two cats name Elliot and Raindrop.
Q: That’s it? That’s what you remember?
A: I remember liking having the whole bed to myself but wanting a man to drive. I remember that. Like it was yesterday.
Q: Any advice for people? I know it’s forty years later but there must be some lesson from that time you can share.
A: Like ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?’ Something like that? Meme-worthy?
Q: Oh, just whatever comes to mind. Something you could share with, you know, younger women who might become single parents.
A. Sure. I have advice. Great advice. Don’t lock your keys in the car.