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Pen Your Pride

Chapter One

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September 1994

"Rise and shine, Peanut," said Lauren spiritedly as she flung open the curtains to let the morning light flood in. "The day awaits."

           Motherhood suited Lauren Robbins, nee Hansen, well. Fifteen years ago as a recent Northwestern University graduate, however, she couldn't have imagined so. Back then, she envisioned a life far different from the rural Illinois one she grew up in. With a B.F.A. in Art History, Lauren romanticized a 1970's counter-cultural lifestyle-- hitchhiking across Europe, experimenting with psychedelic drugs, having casual freewheeling sex with random strangers— all with the intent, like so many of her generation, of "finding" herself.

The ushering in of the eighties extinguished all those non-conformist hankerings overnight so it seemed. Hippies were old hat. Drugs got harder, greed became good and a new prudishness as well as the appearance of AIDS cast an ominous shadow over sexual liberation.

For Lauren, ever the consummate optimist, the future was beginning to look grim. To further darken it, what was to have been a year after graduation spent exploring her career options in the Windy City was now turning into three. If she dwelled on the matter for too long, she'd panic, fearing she might never get to Tibet, drop peyote with a shaman or live in a polyamorous ashram since she was too busy working her soul sucking job as an office temp and barely making ends meet at that. Day after day Lauren slugged through the corporate grind under the sick, florescent lights of the bullpen. And every day she died a little.

The bright spot in Lauren's life emerged, however, when she met Mark Robbins, a third year law school student at the University of Chicago. He was handsome in a rumpled, tweedy professorial way with just a hint of the yuppie-to-come underneath. He was humble, which Lauren found appealing, and he was determined, for he had goals he wanted to accomplish, the complete opposite from Lauren who had been feeling adrift since turning twenty-five. Being with Mark made sense to her in an otherwise senseless world. All her anxieties seemed to vanish once she got to know him. He had a way of calming her, anchoring her. Just one of the many reasons she fell in love with him.

One year after their chance meeting at an art exhibit, Lauren and Mark got married. After two blissful years together, they had their first child, Jennifer. Not long after the birth, an exhausted Lauren held the newborn close to her breast. To her surprise, Mark climbed into the hospital bed with them. Tenderly, he kissed them each on the forehead. When she looked at him, he had tears in his eyes. His voice broke: "My girls." At that precise moment, Lauren knew she was indeed his—heart, body and soul.

So what if she was still making payments on a twenty-thousand-dollar student loan for a diploma that was now dusty in a storage unit she never went to? To hell with her former feminist classmates who were most likely sneering, "A lot of good a college education did Lauren. All she ended up with was her M.R.S. degree." Lauren no longer cared about the "causes" or the bras she'd burned at college demonstrations. Not anymore. All that mattered to her was in that bed in that hospital room. What Lauren had rejected in college, she now fully embraced. After years spent meandering in search of her calling, she'd finally found it where she least expected it: in marriage and in motherhood.

After quickly making junior partner at a prestigious Chicago law firm with clear options of either making partner or opening his own practice, Mark encouraged and fully supported Lauren's decision to stay home. With his salary, they could afford living well on a single income. And so they did. By the time their second daughter Olivia was born, they'd bought a five bedroom Victorian home lakeside. In this upscale neighborhood, they were able to enroll Jennifer in a top-notch private elementary school and easily gain membership into the oldest, most exclusive country club. On the surface, they had every trapping of an affluent lifestyle. In spirit, Lauren and Mark stayed true to their middle class values of self-reliance, hard work and, most of all, family dedication. Beaming homemaker Lauren was the happiest she'd ever been working out in the garden, trying new recipes and doting on her daughters, especially the younger, Olivia.

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