The Swallow’s Nest: Ellen Randolph Speaks
Two weeks I introduced you to Lilia Swallow, one of three important women in The Swallow’s Nest. Last week you met Marina Tate, the second.
This week, meet Ellen Randolph, the final piece of the puzzle. Ellen is no less complicated than Lilia and Marina. In fact she’s even more, because she’s lived more years and made more mistakes. Here she is in her own words.
My name is Ellen Randolph, although I was born Ellen Graham, the middle daughter of three from a wealthy, influential San Francisco family. When I married I took my husband’s surname, but our son, Graham Randolph, bears both. My husband, Douglas, was perfectly happy to let me do this. Perhaps he thought the name would ingratiate him further with my parents. He really didn’t have to worry. Marrying Douglas, a man clearly on his way to bigger, better things, delighted them as I’d never been able to delight them by myself.
My sisters, at least while they were young and malleable, delighted them no end. Phyllis had a razor sharp intellect that she still exercises today as a controversial newspaper columnist. Rosamund became a renowned opera singer. I was the American cheese sandwiched between two slices of gourmet artisan bread.
In the end, although I excelled at very little, my marriage pleased my parents the most. As an adult Phyllis jettisoned my parents politics and views and set up housekeeping with Kay, most recently in a yurt somewhere in Mongolia. Rosamund moved to Rome and set up housekeeping with Gian Carlo, a man perfectly agreeable to marriage, but Rosamund is above such middle-class affectations.
I was the only one to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm, into the arms of a conservative businessman, like my father, who had chosen me for my heritage and upbringing, as well as my well-honed ability to plan his social life and bolster his standing in our world. My parents died happy.
I want to believe I loved Douglas, that I wasn’t swayed by the way he wooed me straight into a marriage that would benefit us both. For once I was both the prize and the winner. I gloried in it. I want to believe I loved him then, even if I haven’t loved him for years, but I know better.
I’m not sure when the glow began to fade. For years I was happy helping Douglas further his career. He was faithful, and although he was demanding, they were demands I could meet and did. I opened doors into homes where he would never have crossed the threshold. In turn he gave me everything material I could ask for and more. I traveled the world, met exciting, powerful people. If there was no particular warmth in our marriage, I was so busy I didn’t mourn it.
Then Graham was born.
From the beginning I loved my son, even though he was a difficult baby who rarely calmed when I held him. In later years, when I wasn’t traveling with Douglas, I did my best to encourage my husband to establish a relationship with Graham. When that didn’t work, I stood between them, shielding Graham from Douglas’s disdain and criticism.
In the end, being little more than an insubstantial barrier did nothing to deepen Graham’s affection for me. With so little practice showing and receiving love, I failed and badly.
Now, though, I have another chance to prove I’m not the cold-hearted woman Graham believed me to be. Graham has a son, and of everyone in baby Toby’s life, I am most equipped to love and guide him.
I just need the chance. And I’ll do whatever I have to to make sure I get one.
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