My mom's friend, Karen, was The Sugar Plum Fairy, when I was growing up. However, you are probably not picturing the role she played in my childhood correctly.
She didn't bestow gifts on all the good little children in the land, nor was she a slight wispy Tinkerbell character waving a magic wand that trailed stars. In fact, I didn't even know her - I think I met her maybe once in all the years I listened to my mom's stories.
No, Karen got to be The Sugar Plum Fairy because she had not a care in the world - at least none that my mom could see. She lived the "easy" life that my mom pined for. Her husband made buckets of money, a cleaning lady ensured that her house always sparkled and she herself had never sullied her own hands bringing home a paycheck.
Karen got her name (unbeknownst to her of course) from her cherished collection of crystal figurines that she apparently showed off with bubbly glee when my parents were invited for dinner.
Oh how my mother envied her! With nothing more than those glass tchotchkes to worry about, Karen represented the height of how a wife's life was supposed to be back in the '70's - according to my mother that is.
Today I was reflecting on the messages my mom's jealousy sent to me back then.
I know, I know, the '70's were supposed to be all about women breaking out of the bonds of inequality and the oppression of a sexist world. But in my house, my mother was busy wishing to be a kept woman - well taken care of by her husband and sheltered from the big bad world of bills and money worries. She had been raised to proudly wear an apron as she doted on her husband and children. In fact, after she married my father, she quit her well paid job (she was a graduate of USC and a professional but never-mind all that.....) because my dad would not "have a wife who worked". A shameful blow to his manhood!
Anyhow things changed. But that is not really my point for now.
Beyond further details, I actually excuse both my parents all this. They were simply playing out the tapes from their own childhoods and the times in which they lived.
Human psychology being what it is, their tapes entered reruns for the seasons of my own childhood. My mom's yearning for that tantalizingly worry-free life, always just out of reach, certainly set her up for unhappiness.
And today, I'm thinking about what all this means for my pursuit of happiness. There's more to say but I must now go sully my hands and get to work - I think I'll leave my apron behind.