A/N: I don't own what you recognize. But I'm so grateful to all of my reviewers for sticking with me through this ride. I'm very sad to leave Mark and Betsy behind me. But I can't keep writing their story forever. So thank you for reading and reviewing. And I hope you'll stick with me through future stories.
In my personal opinion, the great tragedy of Jane Austen's novels is that we never see her heroines as mothers. The stories cannot go on forever, but it would be interesting to see Mrs. Emma Knightley with her children or to see Mr. and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy as parents. I never really realized this until December 24, 2011, the day that my daughter Natalie Elizabeth Williamson was born. But when I held that little girl in my arms, I began to wonder what Mr. Darcy felt like when he held his first-born child for the first time. I thought I was going to explode with the feelings that were circulating inside of me. I was amazed and enamored and delighted and scared.
As cliché as it may sound, my entire world changed in about two minutes. I wonder what that was like for Mr. Knightley. We know that he loves children and children love him. What was fatherhood like for him? Or how did Darcy feel when he became a father for the first time? I can see him being scared and hesitant while I see Knightley embracing fatherhood head-on. Tilney and Ferrars, I see both of them as eager fathers; both of them love to love others. Bertram, I see him as a hesitant but loving father; he's the kind of dad who is scared that he'll break his baby but he wants to try to hold the little one anyway. And Wentworth, well, he would love being a father; other than George Knightley, I see Captain Wentworth as the most natural father. Both of them are very warm, loving men. In my experience, warm, loving men make the best fathers. I am not saying that I am the best father, simply that I have had exposure to both good fathers and not-so-good fathers. And in my experience, the warmers, more loving men were the better fathers.
-"Reflections after the Birth of Jacob Frederick Williamson," an April 22, 2014 blog post on "Literary World Views" by Mark F. Williamson
The day of my wedding was the greatest day of my life. I had the wedding of my dreams. Unlike most girls, I didn't want a princess wedding. I wanted plain and simple. I just wanted to marry Mark. And I wanted to have the people who loved us most in the world there as our witnesses. It was small, private, and perfect. There were maybe one hundred people at the ceremony. Jenna was my own bridesmaid. Richard was Mark's best man. Jenna had wanted him to ask Kevin but he said that he was closer to Richard than he was to Kevin. And it was his damn decision anyway, to use his own words. He also made a point of telling me that there was no way on heaven or earth that he would ever invite Emily Bingham to our wedding. I had responded by quickly informing him that there was no reason for me to ever invite someone who disliked me so much to my wedding.
My father gave me away. My mother was practically swooning with glee over the entire ceremony. She was grinning like a Cheshire cat from the moment she saw me in my wedding dress. To be honest, she'd barely stopped smiling since Mark and I announced our engagement seven months earlier. And three weeks before my wedding, Jenna and Kevin had gotten engaged, which only made my mother happier. She barely said a word but kept smiling, almost like a clown. But she wasn't talking and that made me breathe easier. But I was terrified of the day that I would have to tell her that she was going to become a grandmother. While such news would make Natalie happy, it would make my own mother ecstatic and quite probably inspire soliloquies about how much money this child would have at his or her disposal. At present, there was no grandchild or even any hopes of any grandchild. While Mark and I did engage in activities that could bring children into the world, as of yet there were none.
My mother squealed like a thirteen-year-old meeting Robert Pattinson when Mark and I announced in late June that we were expecting a baby due in mid-January. "A baby, that's perfect! You two will have the most beautiful babies. Except, no! Kevin and Jenna's children will be prettier but that's all right. We can't have everything. And this will be my first grandchild. It's all so exciting."
Mark sighed. I clenched my teeth. And I think we both began to wish that we were dead. Or somewhere else, somewhere else would have been lovely. And it would have been better because I really wanted to have the baby and if I was dead, there would be no baby.
"Are you going to find out what you're having? You'll have to. Being surprised is such a joke. You really do want to know. Then you can paint the room and decorate and get the right clothes," my mother continued.
"We haven't decided yet, Mom," I replied. "We just found out that I'm pregnant."
"Most people make up their minds right away," my mother sniffed.
I sighed. "Mom, we got married. Then, we went to England for ten days. And then we went to Minnesota for our St. Paul reception. I was exhausted when we got back and I had missed two weeks' worth of work at the shop. Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind."
"You should have a boy," my mother pronounced as if I hadn't said a word.
"We'll be happy with either one," Mark replied firmly. "And just because we have one now, that doesn't mean we won't have one of the other later on."
"Your sons will be better looking than your daughters. Betsy isn't as good looking as you are, Mark."
"I take offense at that remark, Mrs. Bennet," my husband replied firmly. "I will not allow you to talk about my wife like that."
She sniffed. "I don't…I'm…It's just that…Oh, don't be silly, Mark. I'm only teasing."
"I'm sure," he said stiffly in a voice which clearly implied that he was anything but sure.
"Look, Mom," I said. "It's our decision, not yours. So please don't push it. Don't. You've done enough. Don't make it any worse."
"Elizabeth, what have I ever done to you?"
"Mom, the fact that you need to ask that question shows the answer clear as day."
She shook her head. "I've always loved you, Lizzie Bennet."
"I'm Betsy Williamson and don't forget that." There is a great difference between being Elizabeth Bennet and being Elizabeth Williamson. In marrying Mark, I had finally escaped my mother's Jane Austen fixation because I had escaped the Austen novels and found something better than fiction.
My mother may have wanted us to have a boy but I found myself desperately wanting a daughter. Maybe it was just because I wanted to vex my mother. Maybe it was maternal intuition. Whatever it was, I was right. In September, we found that we were in fact having a girl. We decided then and there that we wanted to name her Natalie-after Mark's mother. Mark thought we should name her "Natalie Elizabeth, because you have a beautiful name and it would be nice to put it somewhere in our daughter's name."
"Mark, it's just my name. We don't have to use it for our daughter. We could name her Natalie Rose or Natalie Marie."
"But Rose and Marie don't have any real meaning for us. Elizabeth is your name. It's a family name and I like family names and traditions." Mark, for the record, is named after his grandfathers-Frederick Mark Parker and Frederick Williamson. His mother didn't really like the name Frederick but she decided that since it was a family name, it could be her son's middle name. But Mark was a name with which she could live. And it is a name that I love. Frederick, while being a nice name, is not my favorite name; it's rather stiff. But I love the name Mark.
I gave in on Elizabeth somewhere around Thanksgiving. At that point, we thought we had another month and a half until our baby came. However, Natalie Elizabeth Williamson was my daughter and had a mind of her own.
Christmas Eve morning found me at work. In September, Mark had taken to lecturing me about staying off my feet, so I was no longer allowed to stand on my feet for more than thirty or forty minutes at a time. I spent most of my time at work sitting in the yarn side of the shop and only getting up to help customers. As I was enormous, people seemed to understand my reluctance to move. Mark and I went for long walks together for exercise. But when I was in the shop, I liked to be comfortable. Natalie was an active child in utero; she was always wiggling and squirming and kicking. I knew that her head was where it was supposed to be for delivery but I didn't want her to come yet. I was not quite ready for her to pop out just yet. We had the crib set up and the nursery painted and we'd bought or been given almost everything off the registry. And baby Natalie had more clothes than both of her parents combined thanks to the generosity of family, friends, and customer. Many of our regulars had decided to knit us little sweaters and jumpers and dresses and socks and other little things when they heard we were having a baby. We had about a dozen handmade blankets for our little girl.
But I wanted her to finished growing. And I did not want to be the hospital for Christmas morning; it's kind of my favorite holiday.
Also, Christmas Eve is Natalie Camden's birthday and I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted her to have to share it with her granddaughter. We were already naming the baby after Natalie; I didn't want my daughter to feel obligated to be someone just because of her name or her birthday. I didn't want my Natalie to grow up in her grandmother's shadow the way that I had grown up in the shadow of a fictional character. I had really only escaped the shadow of Austen by hanging my name from that of her most of famous heroine to a name that gets 632,000 hits when you Google it. For a quiet but free-spirited shop-owner from Ann Arbor, I think that anonymity might be better than living in someone else's shadow. It is much easier to be your own person when you're Betsy Williamson rather than Elizabeth Bennet.
Baby Natalie seemed not to mind all of my fears and concerns. I worked all morning. It was quiet and slow in the shop, which was nice. Mark was working with me. He and Jamie had opened that morning; I came in at ten and relieved Jamie. Mark was leaving at twelve-thirty when Mark would go home. And Jamie would return to free me at four. He and Hannah would stay there until they closed the shop at six. The shop would be closed all day on Christmas and then reopen at seven o'clock the following morning. Normally, we opened at six but Mark, Jamie, and I agreed that no one needed to be up and about at six o'clock the morning after Christmas. And since we were very close to a Starbucks that would still open at six o'clock regardless of the holiday. We had everything planned out.
But my back had been aching all morning. To be honest, it had been aching since sometime around two in the morning. I was in pain and I didn't quite know why-other than the fact that I was carrying around a baby who weighed about seven and a half pounds. I could never put her down. So I blamed normal pregnancy wear and tear for my misery until I started to feel what HAD to be contractions around lunchtime. It was at this point in time that Hannah suggested calling my husband. The shop was empty, so I agreed. Mark came downstairs and told me that he was going to call my doctor. Protesting was vain and before I really knew what was happening, I found myself at the hospital.
I could tell you about my labor and delivery but you'd probably hate me eternally if I did. Suffice it to say, Natalie Elizabeth Williamson was born at 8:38 PM. She was healthy and beautiful with thick dark brown hair; she was nineteen inches long and weight seven and a half pounds. Being two weeks early didn't seem to set her back much in life.
Natalie is five now and she has never seemed to mind the fact that she was born on Christmas Eve. She thinks it's exciting and she never complains about only getting presents once a year. She is an energetic, eager little girl with bouncing brown curls and dark brown eyes. She laughs often and has a warm, energetic smile. She adores her three-year-old brother, Jacob. Natalie and Jacob adore each other, in fact. Mark and I are thrilled that our children get along so well-especially whenever Jenna gripes about how her children, four-year-old Elsa and three-year-old Nina, are a never-ending tizzy of screaming and hair-pulling.
Maggie Collins is still our darling goddaughter. She lives with her mother and her stepfather; Carlye married Jamie of all people and they seem to be a wonderful match. They have a one-year-old daughter named Josie who is almost as cute as Natalie.
We still own the Knit 'n' Lit although we don't live above it anymore. I informed Mark shortly after Natalie's birth that I didn't want to raise my children above the shop because I didn't want to force it on them. Also, it's not terribly well insulated and I was concerned about Natalie's health. Currently, Hannah and Mercy are living there although neither one of them works for us anymore.
Natalie loves the shop; Jacob loves the bakery. Nat loves to help me knit. She knows how to knit but she can't sit still for very long so her projects are usually dishrags. Jacob has no interest in knitting but he drags the hand-knit blanket that his Nana Camden made him when he was born everywhere he goes. He even named it "Blank."
Mark now has two doctorates and I have finally accepted that I am married to an overachiever. I think I am okay with this. He loves our children, he is good with money, he adores me, he puts up with my knitting obsession, and he makes good coffee. Also, he reads to me as well as to Nat and Jacob. And he is still ridiculously good looking.
I suppose that being named Elizabeth Bennet at birth was not the worst thing that ever happened to me. Because of it, I had a startling (and memorable) first encounter with Mark. I ended up married to the most amazing man alive and I don't know if I ever would have gotten to know him if it hadn't been for Jane Austen.
Marriage is a wonderful thing. Mr. Darcy is a proud man but he humbles himself for love. Love is the great equalizer. I've heard it said (by my sister-in-law, who teaches elementary school) that third grade is the great equalizer. It's close but love is greater. Love taught me to check my preconceptions at the door and look beyond my stereotypes. The first time I met Betsy I arrogantly wrote her off as a hippie-artist. But when I looked again, I found love.
I married a woman named Elizabeth Bennet but I don't see myself as a terribly Darcy-like person. Yes, I insulted her the first time we met. Yes, I fell for her before she fell for me. But that's where the comparisons end. Beyond that, I think that we are much more like Emma and Knightley. Our love is built upon our friendship. And it will last until the end of time. Or at least until death us do part…
-"After Ten Years of Marriage," a May 27, 2021 blog post from "Literary World Views" by Mark F. Williamson
A/N: It's over. Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoyed the story. In the near future, I hope to begin a modernization of Mansfield Park, so keep your eyes open for that.