Alternative life #1: My parents don’t immigrate to America in 1948, and I grow up in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I go to art school and become an artist of mixed talent and later become a writer—a writer in Dutch. I try to translate my novels into English, hoping for a wider audience, but because I wasn’t paying attention in school, my verb tenses are all haywire. No matter, because I live in a 17th century apartment across from the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.
Alternative life #2: I decide never to marry and fly to NYC the day after high school graduation. On the plane, I change my name to Louisa Rose and walk up to first class where there is an empty seat for me. I get a job at Mademoiselle magazine and work my way up to Editor of Big and Important Things while going to night school at City College. At forty, I have a nervous breakdown, because my life is materialistic and hollow. I fly to an ashram in India, where I write a bestselling book, EAT, PRAY, LOVE.
Oh wait! That’s someone else’s life. Sorry.
Alternative life #3: Tom and I decide quite rationally that we don’t want children, and live out our lives in complete peace and harmony in Vienna, Austria where we live in a large apartment inside the Ring and never buy groceries anywhere but the Julius Meinl am Graben. We, of course, dispense smug advice on childrearing and budgeting your time and money to all of our friends, who struggle like worms in a can to survive. Then we get new friends.
Alternative life #4: While I am on vacation in NYC, I witness a crime in which a Mafia boss, using a garish tie, strangles a man in an elevator at the Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side. I testify in court and then am whisked away into the Witness Protection Program under the name Annie Roosevelt. Preferably in Paris, France.
Poor Tom is left with four sons and a huge mortgage.
Alternative life #5: I become a character actress and win an Oscar for playing Meryl Streep’s mother. Meryl Streep wins her fourth Oscar for playing my daughter. She and I become BFFs.
Alternative life #6: Tom and I retire to a restored school house on Prince Edward Island and raise black and white chickens (Plymouth Rocks), because I think they look pretty on the green lawn leading to the Gulf of St. Laurence. Soon, I realize that chickens poop, and someone has to clean it up. Tom is too old and tired to do it. All of Prince Edward Island now smells of chicken poop. It ruins this alternative life, so I return to Alternative Life #2 where I never marry (see above).