So close and yet so far

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Here’s how it should have unfolded. I wouldn't have to do housework for five years. No cleaning, no cooking — my only job, to appear in public with my hair tidy, and my clothes stylish. I’d find a little garret room in Government House where I’d spend time writing historic novels between public engagements.

The job might even come with a secretary.

This was no idle fantasy. It was fuelled by a phone call in mid-December from a senator’s wife who said she wanted to put my name forward for the lieutenant-governor’s job. “Why not?” I said, after a bit of reflection. I should have gone with my immediate reaction: “Don’t waste your time.”

Instead, I wasted a lot of my time, day-dreaming about the $97,000 a year salary, free room and board, and no housework.

I made plans. A needy family could rent our home at a bargain while we lived in luxury at Government House. My teen son Nick would finally get a bigger bedroom and I’d throw in John Crosbie’s office for his homework. There are fewer distractions in an office than at the kitchen table. My musician daughter Naomi could hold folk music sessions in the ballroom, which I’d also offer up for musical fundraisers. That room would be hopping, 18-7. Further fuelling the fantasy were my childhood memories of hanging around Government House in the 1960s when my friend, Jane O’Dea, lived there. She was daughter of then-lieutenant-governor Fabian O’Dea. Jane had sleepovers and the cook handed out Vachon cakes and soft drinks.

Whenever the fantasies took hold, and it was more often than I’d like to admit, I strategized. My husband Chris wouldn’t be keen on attending public functions, but I’d bargain with him. If he planned on sharing the privileges, he’d have to share the duties. After all, he cooks and cleans too.

Just when I’d put the dream out of my mind, I received a followup call, looking for my résumé.

No wonder I appeared preoccupied over the holidays. When I should have been entertaining, I procrastinated, planning to go bigger next year when I might have a mansion at my disposal, and servants. Episodes of “Downton Abbey” took on greater importance as I tried to imagine myself in the role. Liberated from any need to tidy up or make hors d’oeuvres, there’d be no stopping my entertainment ambitions. Our present home languished in neglect as I found it hard to pick up mop and pail, convinced as I was the call, liberating me from tedium, might come at any moment.

That’s how it should have unfolded, but it didn’t.

I dragged my sorry ass through the front door when the appointment was made, to break the bad news at home.  

“I didn’t get the job,” I told the teens who were loudly entertaining each other in the living room — Naomi on the mandolin, Nick on Xbox. They paid me no attention. Chris stopped drying dishes at the sink long enough to say: “Sure, you knew that!”

Yes, I knew, but I couldn’t help imagining what it would be like, to be this province’s first female lieutenant-

governor. Do I regret the nomination? The time lost to unrealistic thinking? Not at all.

But deep down, I do regret ever allowing myself to think I deserved it more than Shannie Duff, Susan Knight, Anita Best, Linda Inkpen, Katie Rich, Lloydetta Quaicoe, Lisa Moore or any of the other amazing women in Newfoundland and Labrador. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that all the women in this province deserve to be lieutenant-governor. Who among us couldn’t use a five-year break from real life?

Marie Wadden writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Government House

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • Colin Burke
    February 08, 2013 - 10:57

    Ms.Wadden,that is indeed a delightful letter. But have you really considered that the price you'd have to pay would be the speeches from the throne, in which you'd have to recite Ms. Dunderdale's thoughts as if they were pure gospel? It's bad enough that men who've climbed the corporate ladder are subjected to that; they've almost done enough to deserve it; and you are a talented arranger of things that need saying, which would if it were possible agravate the indignity of a woman's being obliged to represent another person,or even another office, instead of simply being herself.

  • anna
    February 08, 2013 - 07:43

    Marie, what a delightful letter and you would have been an amazing Lieut. Governor so it is our loss. Unfortunately, when you have a man such as Stephen Harper in Ottawa then women or any men who have not climbed the corporate ladder, will not stand a chance of being appointed on merit alone.