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Olive Oil and Figs 

Written by Storyteller: Adara Bernstein   Comments: 3


“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” the female voice rang out against the grainy evening sky. To anyone whose ears it fell upon, they were surprised to know that it was not the petulant sound of an angry teenager but rather a grown woman simultaneously telling off her mother, her father, her husband and her boss.


In the course of twenty four hours, Margaret Jameson quit her job and told her boss where to shove it, informed her husband she wanted a divorce, and asked her parents to finally stop meddling in her life.


The person she was screaming at was her own reflection.


Margaret had, by her own definition, been a doormat her entire life. Worse than a wallflower, she WAS noticed, but for all the wrong reasons. Margaret couldn’t say no to anyone for anything. She took on burdens and was taken advantage of by mothers in the neighborhood who relied on her status as a “stay at home housewife” to do errands for them, by the school who looked at her as a substitute to be called on only when needed, by her husband who flaunted his multiple affairs with younger, sexier women, and by her parents whose passive aggressive manipulation over their sacrifices and guilt wore on her for years.


Until one day when she just snapped. She found herself brushing her hair viciously in front of the mirror – studying with disgust her turkey neck and grey hairs, the wrinkles around her eyes. Looking behind the pain and suffering she suddenly saw the woman she had once wanted to be – carefree and vibrant. The opposite of what she had allowed herself to become.


Her husband had been out “working late” – his euphemism for a dalliance, and her boss had sent her an email that he absolutely needed to have this document done first thing tomorrow – sent at 9pm that night.


Something in her broke as she pointed her hairbrush towards the stranger in the mirror looking back at her. Who was that crazy, beat down woman who looked far older than her forty seven years? She HATED that woman; that was for certain.


Composing herself after her outburst, she sat at her computer and calmly typed a response to her boss, terminating her employment immediately. She then composed a “Dear John” letter and staple-gunned it to the mantle. Margaret was tempted to light fire to all of her husband’s clothes, but instead she hauled three suitcases out of the attic and packed as much as she could, leaving behind all the mementos of her marriage and childhood. She put the luggage in her beloved old Fiat, the car that her husband loathed and said embarrassed him because it made people think they were poor, and drove away from the small town that had stifled her for decades.


Cruising along the freeway, she had no plans. She pointed her car East and away she drove. She giggled when she thought about her louse of a husband sneaking in late, trying to avoid the plank that creaked in the foyer (he always stepped on it and she suspected he meant to), her boss’s reaction when he found his document was not ready and that his trusty assistant of almost fifteen years was nowhere to be found, and her parents…. Ah, her parents. She sighed. They would tear their hair out with faux-guilt and angst. She decided she wouldn’t call them until she was settled somewhere.



“Margaret refrained from laughing out loud, but then thought, Italy? Why not? What else did she have to do with her life? She’d always wanted to go to Italy!”



Luckily Margaret had always been frugal with money, and had managed to put enough saved “allowance” money into a personal savings account of which her husband knew nothing that would allow her to get situated somewhere. Somewhere far away – this was all she knew.


She drove all night. Opened the windows, stuck her foot out of the driver’s side, sang at the top of her lungs. Ate chips and candy bars and drank gallons of Coca Cola (she wanted to toss the trash out the window in a fit of whooping-it-up but refrained).


Once the light started peeking over the horizon, the soft pink and orange fingers made her suddenly sleepy, so she pulled into a motel and slept for hours. When she woke up, she checked her cell phone – her voicemail was full. She walked outside, put the phone under the car wheel and drove over it. Her next stop was getting a map of the United States. She pulled into a gas station and asked for the maps.


“Ain’t got no maps. Ain’t you got no GPS whatchamaggigit in that car?” the skinny, slack-jawed man said from behind the counter.


“That old car? Surely you’re joking. No, I am just driving east.”


“East huh? You mean like toward Italy?”


Margaret refrained from laughing out loud, but then thought, Italy? Why not? What else did she have to do with her life? She’d always wanted to go to Italy! In fact she wanted to go to Italy for her honeymoon but her husband had said it would be too expensive – before she found out that he’d bought his mistress a pair of diamond earrings. Margaret’s face turned a bright red and the man behind the counter gave her a sideways glance, obviously worried about her (or scared of her).


“Yes, Italy. That’s where I’m going!” She got into her car and pointed it again east. She drove for days until she got to Atlanta. Pulling into a dumpy looking garage repair shop she asked the man working there how much he’d give her for her car. He looked it up and down, declared it in decent shape, and offered her $500 (she found out later it was worth 10 times that!), and Margaret gladly accepted.


The shop owner was nice enough to give her a lift to the airport, where she bought the first ticket to Italy she could. Sitting in the airport with her 3 suitcases and no other obligations in the world, Margaret again stifled the urge to start laughing maniacally in the airport. A pang of guilt twinged at her, and she debated at least calling her parents. But then she wanted to make them suffer as they had put upon her for all their needs and own disappointments heaped upon her for forty seven years. She wanted some time alone to reacquaint herself with herself.


Her plane landed the next day, and Margaret found herself in Rome. She secured a flat and rented a motorbike and spent the next several weeks exploring the wonders of the country. Next she moved to Naples, and then onto Sicily, Pompeii, Pisa, and every town in between.


Initially Margaret didn’t talk to many people on her trip. She luxuriated in her aloneness, learning to listen to that voice that had for so long been buried deep inside of her. Learning who Margaret really was. Who knew that she didn’t like oysters? She’d never tried them, and guess what, she LOVED them! She didn’t know that there was a difference flavor to olive oils. She’d always bought the big bottle of canola oil and never knew what she’d been missing all along. Or how fresh figs tasted. Or the salty wind of the Mediterranean Sea. Or the melting feeling of a cool gelato on a hot day.


The call to her parents was the most difficult, but surprisingly they didn’t seem all that concerned or even shocked. Margaret was awed – had they always wanted her to stand up for herself? Did they know she was a doormat in a loveless marriage? How come they’d never said anything?


She told them she’d be home “some time” and they simply told her to call if she needed any money. Margaret hung up the phone, a small smile upon her face, and turned her back toward the afternoon sun, got on her motorbike and sped away towards the next adventure.


Bio: Margaret Jameson is working on her first book, a cookbook of Italian foods and wine pairings. She lives in Tuscany with her new husband, Giorgio and her step-daughter, Romana. Her parents come to visit as often as they can.


Thank you MaggieJ, for sharing your Story with us.


Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.

© 2009 by Adara Bernstein and Story of My Life ® 

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Member Since
Aug 2007
Brian Childers said:
posted on Apr 12, 2009

Good story! I like the start of this. Hope you'll tell us the stories about living in Italy too

Member Since
Apr 2009
Margaret Jameson said:
posted on Apr 13, 2009

I will write more. I love this site! What a wonderful idea it is to preserve these stories.

And many thanks to you, Adara, for writing my story for me.

Member Since
Apr 2008
Chuck Stallong said:
posted on Apr 13, 2009

don't tell me that your new backyard in that pic above... nice