Party of One
Morse family photo
Mick takes Meghan for a dip. He lavished attention on his children - but not on Jane.
By ROY PETER CLARK
Jane delivered her third baby with her own hands in Dusseldorf, Germany, in her own car in a hospital parking lot. It was Oct. 29, 1978. Mick had rushed to find a doctor. But it was too late. Their new baby daughter Erin slid out, slippery as a watermelon seed, and howled at the Dusseldorf moon.
That was the happiest moment in Dusseldorf for the Morses, who had moved from Rio so Mick could become principal of the American International School. It was a big promotion for him.
Mick was flying high. But Jane was not. She found the Germans and expatriated Americans to be disgruntled and sour. She longed for Rio, and encouraged Mick to accept an offer to return there as high school principal.
After their return to Rio in 1980, there came a time when Mick withdrew from Jane, physically and emotionally. No one made a decision about it, or an announcement. As in many marriages, it was a gradual process, hardly noticeable, a thick carpet worn down by footsteps, a once vibrant tapestry bleaching in the sun.
As the decade wore on, they would barely touch, except at social gatherings and for holiday photographs. By 1986, Jane could no longer hide her frustration. Her girlfriends could see it on her face and hear it in her voice.
One night Jane went out with Ana Yates, Mick's secretary at the American School. Ana was heartbroken after her boyfriend broke up with her in a cruel way. Jane was there to sympathize. They shared a bottle of wine. Jane expressed what was on both their minds: "Men are all alike," she said, "they don't deserve us." There were tears in Jane's eyes.
Jane tried everything, including confronting Mick. She would test him, insinuating that she had plenty of chances to cheat on him. Jane was a beautiful woman. No one would deny it. In Rio, the spirit of sensuality was in the air. At parties men would strut around Jane like peacocks.
Mick became more reclusive, locking away his feelings. He spent even more time reading, sleeping and traveling. "How do you know I'm not having an affair," she said to him after one frustrating episode.
She looks back at the irony of his response. Three little words: "I trust you."
Whatever passion he withheld from Jane, he showered on his children. You can see it on every page of the family photo albums. Mick looks deeply happy when he has his children in his arms. Mick helps David unwrap Christmas presents. Mick adjusts Meghan's water wings. Mick helps Erin kick her first soccer ball. The joy and pride on his face in all these settings, as the children grow into young adulthood, are inspirational.
He was, by all accounts, a good father, patient and attentive. He helped David develop his athletic and musical skills. He cuddled Meghan and Erin, taught them how to play pinochle and showed the usual fatherly concern as they approached puberty.
Jane, too, loved her children, and she loved her life, which is probably why a passionate woman could withstand the lingering death of her husband's affections. She sublimated her frustrations by creating, for herself and her friends, a social life that is still the talk of Rio. At the center was The Happy Hands Society.
It began as a Thursday afternoon social gathering of four friends: Jane, Linda, Cheryl and Jolinda. They would enjoy each other's company and play some bridge. On some days they'd invite a manicurist. Another time they invited a masseuse. More of their friends wanted in on the action.
One day Jane got a brainstorm. Why not combine all these activities. Six friends would gather. While four played bridge, one could get a massage, and one could get a manicure and a pedicure. Then, during a long afternoon of gossip and wine tasting, they would rotate! Hands of bridge. Hands for manicure. Hands of the masseuse: The Happy Hands Society!
These gatherings went on for years and became the center of a busy social circle. Jane and her friends knew they were being more than a little decadent, even by Brazilian standards. One memorable party lasted 18 hours, consuming 17 bottles of wine. So they decided to turn their activities toward philanthropic purposes. The ladies used their happy hands to create Christmas crafts for sale at the school bazaar. They adopted a downtown orphanage, volunteered their time to play with the children and hosted Christmas parties for them. As board members of the city's American Society, they went to the big hotels and businesses to raise money for the city's poor children, who are legion.
But how many lonely, loveless nights would she be required to withstand? With Mick out of town, her body warm with wine, her inhibitions down, she would lie in bed, the tropical breezes caressing her body through an open window. She would close her eyes, and the fantasies would dance through her brain and down into her body.
In her fantasies, she was never with Mick but with other men, and it made her feel guilty.
"I trust you." His words tasted bitter when she repeated them.
THE SERIES: This is the 11th installment of a 29-part story.
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