When the young woman confided my mother’s sexual prudery, I had no trouble believing her. Sex had always made my mother uncomfortable, or at least talking about it.
I can remember her halting attempts to introduce me to the mysteries of the flesh.
Mostly they were just embarrassing to both of us. Always an intuitive child, I would sense her discomfort and steer onto safer waters.
Those were simpler times. Sex had not yet become the lingua franca of advertising or series television. Today a 15-year-old would never be shocked by this line from Oklahoma: “It’s a scandal. It’s an outrage, how a girl gets a husband these days. If you make one mistake when the moon is bright, then they tie you to a contract so you make it every night.”
I was mortified. Every night? Oh, surely not. Timed for procreation, yes, but purely for pleasure?
The line hit me like a sledge hammer. I was playing in the pit orchestra for a community production of the musical. When the actors began practicing with us, I nearly dropped my violin the first time I heard the words.
As soon as I got home, I wailed, “Mother?!?”
She tried the usual pablum about love between two people, how caring for each other made sex pleasurable, but her embarrassment told another story.
So years later, when the young woman told me Mother was a prude and was keeping her from her beloved Larry, I had no trouble believing her.Mother was working at Vine Village, a farm for adults whose families wanted their special-needs offspring to have as a high a quality of life as possible. Mother taught budgeting, cooking, cleaning, and social skills. She gave residents the kind of love that encouraged them to stretch their limits.
Others taught them how to work in the garden or care for the animals, including an ill-tempered llama who played no favorites. He spit at everyone.
The women for whom she was a kind of house mother adored Mother. So did other staff. She was endlessly patient but also willing to hold people to their highest possible capacities.
One ticklish area was sex. The young women may have been limited intellectually, but their bodies responded with the same ardor as anyone else’s. That made them targets for young men who saw them as easy marks.
Mother persuaded some of them to undergo an operation that would relieve them of the worry of unexpected pregnancy. Others she was able to train in the use of contraceptives. Some got pregnant.
And then there was the young woman who confided Mother’s prudery to me. Larry was the love of her life, she said, but Mother would not allow her to spend the night with him. They were perfectly suited for each other. He was gentle and patient and strong, everything she could hope for in a mate. They wanted to spend their lives together. Mother was being unreasonable. After all, they were both adults.
After an hour’s conversation, she had me convinced. So later that night, after all the women had retired to their rooms, I had a conversation with Mother. I shared the young woman’s story and asked why she wanted to interfere with two young people who sounded capable of making their own decisions.
Mother listened patiently. Then she leveled her best you-had-to-be-there look at me.
She shook her head and said quietly, “Larry is the llama.”