Perhaps it was the fact that she was never allowed to touch the treasures her father, Douglas Simmons III collected. Or maybe it was due to her fascination with books at an early age. And then there was the tiny fact that she rather enjoyed to test the patience of her father and grandmother. However, by the time Cathleen Iris Simmons reached Thorton's School for Girls there was a distinct difference between Cathleen's attitude and her peers.
Of course she wasn't going to let on about her different ideas. No, to talk about anything but fabric patterns, food recipes, and other 'women topics' was frowned upon by her strict upper-class breeding. So it was only pure luck that she was in Thorton's library the moment a small book by Dr. Henry Jones Jr. made its way onto the shelves. And fate was smiling that day when Cathleen was assigned a paper on a topic of her choice. And surely some miracle made her pick up Dr. Jones' book entitled Ancient China and Its Influence in Today's Society, which spurred her on to not only write about Chinese culture but start her on a fascination to find out more about this most ancient of societies.
Cathleen's saving grace from the torture known as high society came in the form of the news that she was accepted into Marshall College. Once she knew she was going there she had two goals; the first was to get a great education to pursue a career as a doctor. The second was to take at least one class with her idol, the famed archaeologist Dr. Henry Jones Jr. And much like Dr. Jones Cathleen's original desired major was archaeology. Once she told this idea to her father he replied that 'playing in the dirt' wasn't something that he would pay for. So, abandoning her first choice of study Cathleen enteredMarshall Collegea Pre-Med student. Though not a typical women's major of Art History or Literature. Cathleen knew that besides archaeology, medicine was meant for her. After all, her own mother died of a preventable complication from Cathleen's birth.
Once the young brunette graduated from Thorton's School for Girls, she found out that though her peers had been telling her she's too tall and too thin. Her striking blue eyes and chestnut hair made for a very interesting time during a short vacation at Martha's Vineyard. It was this summer in 1957 that Cathleen found out just how little she meant to her father and just how independent she could be.
And it is here that we join young Cathleen, three weeks after she's left Thorton's and two days out of her father's care.
"So, Cat," said a young tan man to Cathleen's right "I don't understand why you would want to be at this beach instead of the private one at your own beach house." As the young man sat down near Cathleen and passed her a soda she couldn't help but notice the dirt under his fingernails and the stained t-shirt and shorts he was wearing. When she compared his outfit to her crisp button down shirt, designer pedal pushers and pearl jewelry Cathleen realized that she must look completely out of place here. But what looked like a displaced person on the outside was actually a young woman who felt at home here on the crowded, ramshackle beach.
"Alan," Cathleen said before she took a long sip of her cold soda. "It's just different here. I hate being all alone. It doesn't matter how much money I have, without people around it's all worthless." Cathleen looked over at Alan who was now looking back at her with wide eyes. "Yes, I know it's a hard concept for someone coming from no money to understand. But let's say you had a choice between having money with no one to share it with, or a life full of family and friends who would do anything for you but no money. Which would you pick?"
"Well that's an unfair question," Alan said before taking a long drag from his soda. "I mean I already have the poor family thing. I'd like to try the money thing for a while." Alan laughed.
"I don't blame you. But like the saying goes 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'." Cathleen smiled at Alan then realized his confused expression meant he didn't know of the saying. "It just means that, from another point of view usually another way of life always looks better. That is until you try it for yourself."
"Is that from Plato?" Alan asked jokingly.
"No, not every piece of useless quotes I have comes from 'those old Greek guys'. I think that grass saying might come from Bugs Bunny." Cathleen giggled as Alan looked amazed. "Yes even us prep school princesses have the occasional free moment to watch a cartoon or two. And that quote is just something I've always said to myself when I wish my life was different." Putting her soda bottle aside Cathleen leaned back onto the blanket beneath her.
"I know it's ridiculous," Cathleen shrugged. "But I've been beginning to realize that to Father I'm just a pawn to marry off to a rich family so he can have access to more money. And like you I've found that the person people want me to be isn't the person I am."
"Exactly," Alan nodded as he pulled Cathleen into his broader chest. "And I don't know which one of it has it harder, you with your rebellion against high society. Or me with my fascination with Rock Hudson's voice and John Wayne's eyes."
Cathleen smiled at the taller Alan. "You know, it took me almost two weeks to realize that you really just wanted to read my Shakespeare book and not kiss me. God, how dumb was I?"
"Not dumb at all," Alan said as he rubbed Cathleen's shoulder in comfort. "After all, how do you think I've been able to 'pass' around my totally Catholic family?"
"Well," Cathleen sat up quickly, "We shouldn't have to 'pass'. It's not fair to either of us, we're both not happy and with only a few changes we could be."
"Aw, Cat," Alan said through sips of his soda. "There you go getting all idealistic. I admit that the concept isn't tempting-"
"Then why don't we do it?" Cathleen practically yelled.
"We're so used to the status quo that to change it will require too much work." Alan sympathized with his young friend but at twenty he had come to the conclusion that his happiness with another man wasn't meant to be. However he saw in the eighteen-year-old Cathleen a slight hope that could change the course of her life. Unfortunately he wouldn't be around to see it come to fulfillment. For neither Cathleen or Alan knew it but at that very moment Alan's two oldest brothers were coming up with an idea on how to change their brother's 'perverted' ways. But that sad story is for another time. What is important is the next thing Alan said would remain with his young friend until her dying day. "Cat, promise me something. That if you ever feel your grass quote isn't enough, just remember that a beautiful few moments are so much better than an unhappy eternity."
"Wow, Alan," Cathleen looked down with wide eyes. "If I didn't know better I'd say that you were turning into my own personal Plato. You sure you don't have a little Greek in you?"
"Aw, Cat hunny I wish." Alan joined Cathleen's laughter and as the pair finished their sodas in silence Alan looked at his watch. "I have to go and meet my brothers. Have fun with your Grandmother Cat and tell me all about what Dreadful Dolores has to say tomorrow."
"I promise, Al." Cat waived him goodbye before she got up herself and took the blanket back with her to her beach house.
And so it was that during that summer Cathleen Iris Simmons ended up not only losing the first person who ever truly meant something to her. But she found in herself the courage to find her own happiness within herself and make her own beautiful moments whenever she could. No matter what her father, grandmother or anyone else said or did to dissuade her from her course of action.
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