Was I, Barbara Cameron, good wife and mother, really going to go through with this? I pushed back the thoughts of what I should be doing. I knew I should feel ashamed, that I shouldn’t do this. Instead, I remembered how good it felt when Steve smiled at me. How wonderful it was that his dark brown eyes lit up when I came into the room.
Looking out the window, I made sure my husband Robert’s truck was gone. I didn’t have much time to get ready. I had scooted Melissa and Bridgette out the door to friends’ houses. They had looked at me as though I’d lost my mind. I almost never let them go to anyone’s house. But today was different. I didn’t want them here.
What they didn’t know was that I hadn’t lost my mind. I’d finally gotten a grasp of it. For too many years I’d let Robert walk all over me. For too many years I’d let his hurtful words crush my heart and tear me to pieces. Too long I’d felt like the real me was almost invisible to my own husband. Too many times I wanted to cry when he, just being friendly, turned his back on me to sit in rapt attention as some gorgeous woman captivated him while I sat like a fat, ugly lump behind him. For too many years I’d let him dictate to me what I should feel and how I should think about any issue at hand.
This afternoon I was going to take a step toward regaining myself.
How had I been so lucky to meet such an incredible man? A smile moved from my face to my heart, melting every part of me.
“Hi, Barb, how ya doing?” he’d say every day on the Growing Pains set.
“Better,” I’d answer, hoping he’d hear what I didn’t say out loud, but inferred.
Better because you are here. Better because you see me.
“Good.” His smile bathed my torn soul. “When are you going to go into business for yourself? You’d be a great agent, you know.”
“Not yet. Too much going on with the kids.” I pretended that what he said didn’t matter much. When in reality, I took his words in and let them heal the places Robert had wounded. Steve thought I had potential. Steve believed in me. Steve enjoyed being around me. Steve liked me. I didn’t feel invisible around Steve.
How long had it been since Robert seemed to really like me? Fifteen years? Eighteen? Had he forgotten the sandy, wet girl he had been smitten with when we met on the beach? The girl who blew him away at the front door, her hair in curls, sundress showing off her tan?
Had he forgotten how he had loved me so much? How excited he was not only to find a girl to marry, but one who wanted to marry him so badly she’d proposed to him?
What did it matter? Our marriage had been hard for so long. Robert made it clear from day one that he was the master of the house and no woman would ever, ever control him. From day one, he discouraged me from having strong opinions. He wouldn’t tell me where he was going to take me to dinner, because he didn’t want to hear me make any comments about his choice—even positive ones. He’d gone from suffering under a controlling mother to being hyper-controlling himself, and wanting to be sure his wife didn’t control him at all.
In the beginning, I loved all that about him. I loved that he was so strong and sure. I didn’t have to do the hard work of making decisions. He happily made them, and I happily accepted them.
I tidied up the kitchen and tried to tell myself that Robert wasn’t all bad. After all, without him, I wouldn’t be able to manage the kids’ acting careers. The family would have needed me at home. Robert carried half the household load without complaint. Without him, the non-acting daughters, Bridgette and Melissa, would have little parental attention. He helped Bridgette and Melissa do their homework. He washed the dishes.
But he can be so mean.
Yeah, he helped the girls, but he yelled at them and said hurtful things when they couldn’t understand their homework.
Truth of the matter was, I was miserable—and had been for far too many years. I’d told myself I’d leave Robert after the kids were gone. For their sake I’d wait until the last one turned eighteen or left home. But why wait? Surely it was okay with God if I was happy now. Isn’t that why I met Steve? Wasn’t Steve a sign that God wanted to give me a way out of this verbally abusive marriage? Steve was an incredible gift from God. And today, we were going to move from on-set flirting to an off-set date. And what a date it was going to be! My husband may have repressed me, but I’m still a woman. I knew what the pull of chemistry feels like. I knew the silent messages shouted in body language. He cared for me; there was no doubt about that.
This might be official date number one, but it felt as though we’d been dating for some time. In a way, perhaps, we had … just surreptitiously, under the watchful eyes of the cast and crew.
I took the Nordstrom’s dress bag from my closet. Lifting the plastic, I gazed at the new pantsuit. I pictured myself in it. Pictured him seeing me in it. His broadening smile. His chestnut brown eyes, taking in every inch of me, so pleased at what he saw.
I’d dreamed of having a first real kiss for months now. I knew it would be tender, gentle, inviting.
I slipped the clothing off the hanger and laid the pieces on the bed.
Robert made me feel insignificant as a woman. Unimportant. Barely sufficient. I knew weight was important to him. My goodness, he kept track of the girls’ weight on a chart, weighing them every Sunday. He doled out food as though it were important for them to stay at some expected ideal. I couldn’t imagine what he thought about me. Never slender, but never fat. Just an endless chubbiness.
I put on the periwinkle slacks that clung to my slender figure in soft, fluid fabric. The matching jacket and white top looked stunning. The top clung to my curves, enticing another look. The blue in my eyes deepened. I turned in front of the mirror. I’d worked so hard to lose these twenty pounds—for Steve.
Funny how you can do things easily for someone who appreciates your hard work.
“You look fabulous today, Barb.”
I lived for those words. I’d given up hearing Robert say them. But to hear them from Steve …
My blond hair fell onto my shoulders. I grabbed a handful and held it up, turning from side to side, deciding. Up or down?
Down. It looks more beach casual.
I slipped on black flats and tip-toed into the bathroom. I dug into my makeup bag and removed mascara, shadow, eyebrow pencil, and lipstick. I paused at the foundation, and then let it go. I reapplied my makeup, finishing with the coral lipstick, smoothing the color on. I pressed my lips together and stood back.
My heart reacted, jump-starting to triple time.
Is this really happening?
I’d never been a girl to seek anything outside the norm. Yet I felt something missing in my life as wife and mother. It wasn’t that I hadn’t liked being a mother. I couldn’t pinpoint the emptiness. I couldn’t believe I used to try to drum up fulfillment and excitement by spending hours doing macramé, then hosting home parties. No, I had a new life now. The life everyone dreamed of. Hollywood. Glamour. Glitz. Being written about in magazines. Being on talk shows. Rubbing shoulders with some stars and being friends—yes, friends—with others. I tried to hide it, but it was tremendously exciting. I was known in Hollywood. I had my own money. My own connections. A nice, new, silver BMW convertible. I could go do this dangerous thing because I wasn’t little Barbara, Robert’s quiet wife anymore. No, I was Barbara Cameron. Teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron’s mom. Yes, I was the Mike Seaver’s real-life mom. I was also the mom of the sweet, lovable Candace Cameron, who played DJ Tanner on Full House.
And there is a man who cares about me.
There are defining moments in everyone’s life. A moment when everything changes. For some, the moment happens to them. A car accident. A medical diagnosis. A death. I was tired of letting life happen to me. Tired of letting Robert choose. Tired of his insensitive comments that everyone laughed at but me. Tired of feeling like the brunt of a joke. Of being silent everywhere Robert and I went together because he dominated the conversation. It used to be okay, because I knew he was so smart and I was so dumb. But now I wanted to be at least a little bit smart. And Steve obviously thought I was.
I knew I wasn’t innocent in the mess my marriage had become. I’d contributed. I’d yelled. I’d kept quiet when maybe I should have said something. But nothing I said to Robert seemed to change anything. And I didn’t know how to say it anyway. I didn’t know how to make him understand that I wanted to be one with him. And now it just felt like it was too late. I was so tired of fighting. Tired of trying.
Today I planned to take my life into my hands. I would show strength by taking a huge stride toward freedom and by doing something different. As I met Steve on the beach, I would define my own eventful moment that would change my life forever.
I shivered with excitement.
Taking up my handbag, I stepped into the warm California sunshine.